A journey though learning how to weave on a rigid heddle loom sharing tips and techniques, resources, and projects along the way!

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Sunday, August 15, 2021

WET FINISHING

This brief article contains links to the two extensive articles on wet finishing. Wet finishing is an important process in creating woven cloth. When the cloth comes off the loom what you have is a net of yarn. The process of wet finishing converts the net into cloth. The yarn relaxes, the weave pulls together, and when dry the result is woven cloth. All weaves using any yarn fiber should be wet finished. Some will say that acrylic does not need to be wet finished. Acrylic will relax and the weave will come together just as a weave of any other fiber.  There is a definite positive difference before and after wet finishing. 

 Each of these articles has step by step directions to follow: 

 

ARTICLE ONE - WET FINISHING BY HAND

https://rigidheddle.blogspot.com/2018/04/wet-finishing.html


ARTICLE TWO - WET FINISHING BY MACHINE

https://rigidheddle.blogspot.com/2020/01/wet-finishing-by-machine.html

 When wet finishing by machine timing is critical - especially time in the dryer. 


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

CHANGING WEFT YARNS WHILE WEAVING

I am going to talk about two different processes in this article about changing weft yarn as you are weaving. There are two main reasons why you would do this. One is if you want to have weft stripes - horizontal stripes of different colors in your finished weave. The other is going to happen much more often - you are weaving and your shuttle runs out of yarn.  Now you have to start a new shuttle with that same yarn. I will take each of these separately.

 FIRST - COLOR YARN CHANGE FOR STRIPES:

 When you want to make weft stripes in your weave, you need to be able to change from one color yarn to another while you are weaving and you want the change to take place at a selvedge and you do not want the change to show. This is how I do that. I am right handed and feel most comfortable working at the right selvedge so what I am showing here is worked on the right side of the loom. There is no reason why you could not do this on the left side of the loom or alternate side to side if you want to. How long you make your stripes is up to you. How to determine how many rows of weft each stripe is, is simple. Get a "click counter" - these are sold for knitting. It is a push button counter - push the button and the number on the counter advances by one. They also have a reset to set the counter back to zero. These should not be expensive. I have one that is plastic and small.  If you decide you want each stripe to be 25 rows, with the counter set to zero, click once each time you pass the shuttle to weave a row. When you get to 25, stop, reset the counter, make your color change and weave another 25 rows.  You could do this with a paper and pencil and put a line every row - and count the lines.  The clicker is easier. 

So lets begin:

In this BLACK yarn is the OLD COLOR and BLUE yarn is the NEW COLOR.  I will refer to these as OLD AND NEW.

1)  You are ready to make your new stripe. You have woven the length you want your current stripe to be and you want to now start a new color stripe.  Take your shuttle with the OLD color yarn which you are now weaving with - and before you pass it through the shuttle CUT the yarn leaving about 7 inches left hanging down the side of the selvedge you are at. Open the shed. Put that tail of yarn into the open shed and lay it down on the warp - at a 45 degree angle up toward the other side. Now take that tail and tuck it down between two warps to under the warp under the loom.  Go into the two warps that are about an inch into the warp. You will be making the color change in the first inch of the warp from the selvedge.

The photo above shows the OLD weft through the warp and hanging down. Give it a pull while holding the weft at the selvedge warp to get it nice and straight and even - but keep it at the 45 degree angle.

2) Take you shuttle with the NEW weft and put it through the same open shed from the same direction. Let a tail stick out the selvedge that you went in from. You want a tail about 6 inches (just so you have some yarn to work easily with - don't be stingy with the yarn - a little wasted yarn makes somethings a lot easier to do. Take that tail INSIDE the open shed and tuck it down between two warp yarns to below the warp under the loom. Here you see that the warp went down between the fourth and fifth warp threads - you don't want to be too close to the end warp but close enough so that this change will be hidden when you continue weaving

 Here you see NEW yarn going down between two warp threads and below the warp. Now this is the important part and what will HIDE the change - though when you do it you will say - that will never hide the change I can see it clearly right in front of me! Well - give it a chance. TAKE THE TWO YARNS - OLD AND NEW AND CROSS THEM SO THAT THE OLD YARN IS GOING TO GET PUSHED TO BE NEXT TO THE OLD YARN IN THE ROW BELOW IT AND THE NEW YARN WILL BE NEXT TO THE NEW YARN IN THE ROW YOU ARE GOING TO WEAVE ABOVE IT. Pinch the warp at the selvedge and give each tail of yarn a little tug so that it is up at a 45 degree angle toward the other side and so that it becomes slightly snug. Close the shed by putting the heddle in NEUTRAL.

This is what your two tails look like under the loom.


  3) BEAT FIRMLY WITH THE HEDDLE. Push both yarns into the weave and you want the OLD yarn to be on top of the OLD yarn in the row before! 

 

 

And you are thinking, I CAN SEE IT! I CAN SEE IT!  Just wait!

4) Keep weaving. The yarn in the photos is thin yarn - #3 knitting yarn. A thicker yarn blends even better - but this works with thick or thin yarns. Here, below, is what you have after a few new rows of NEW yarn.


 And you are still thinking - who is he kidding, I can still see the change!  

5) Take your fingers and put your thumb at the selvedge on the NEW yarn, pinch it gently to your fingers under the NEW yarn (SHED IN NEUTRAL) and just manipulate the NEW yarn at the edge down slightly to close in what may be visible. Get it even and straight - get the NEW yarn to move into line with its first row.  Now, KEEP WEAVING the NEW YARN.

 I don't see the change any more. YOU know it is there. If you look really closely you can see somewhat what you did to make the change. Give this when it is off the loom and wet finished and they will not see the change. If you point it out to them, they may see it. But it is highly unlikely. 

When you are ready to make the next stripe do the same thing all over again. If you are changing with two stripes in alternating of the same colors or if you are putting a different color into every stripe, it will still work. 

When you take this off the loom, wet finish. I don't care what fiber(s) it is - always wet finish. Once it is completely dry you are going to eliminate the evidence. Lay the cloth flat with the tails facing you. Take hold of one of the tails and hold it up - not tight but to keep where it meets the cloth up from the rest of the cloth. You are going to snip (cut) the tail off. I do this with what is called a cuticle scissor. It is small and has a small pair of sharp blades that are curved UP.  This scissor in the photo is 3.5" long. The sides at the finger holes are 2" apart. You should be able to find these in a pharmacy or pharmacy department of a discount store - often with the cosmetics or nail care.  I happened to buy these a Farmer's Market in the Amish area of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania for 3 pairs for $5.

Take the bottom of the curve just above the cloth but close to the cloth - and clip off the tail. JUST be careful not to clip anything that you should not be cutting! The yarn - after wet finishing is all part of the weave and will not come undone. 

YOU ARE DONE changing weft colors when weaving.

 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SECOND: STARTING A NEW SHUTTLE WITH THE SAME YARN IN THE SAME COLOR

Starting a new shuttle with the same yarn is even easier - and is done the same way. The difference is you are going to do this change longer and toward or in the center between the selvedges (end warps).

THIS NEXT SECTION IS AN EXTRA - AS THIS COMES UP ALL THE TIME AS A RELATED QUESTION:

When you start to see that your shuttle is running out of yarn, if you have a second shuttle the same length, stop weaving and go and wind more yarn on that shuttle. IF your weft is a solid color weft or a patterned weft that is random and it does not matter if you continue with weft from another section of the yarn - just wind one shuttle from the end of the ball where you left off winding the first shuttle. 

 IF your weft is variegated colors or patterns of colors - or you have a self striping weft and you want to continue with the matching part of the yarn that continues where your shuttle weft ended,this gets a little more time consuming. Ideally for this type of weft, if you have several shuttles the best thing to do is when you wind the first shuttle when that shuttle is full, you continue to wind the rest of the shuttles right then. After winding the first shuttle - (let's say you have 4 shuttles to use) - you would mark that first shuttle #4. Keep winding shuttles - the next  shuttle is marked #3. The shuttle wound after that is #2. The last shuttle you wind is #1.  You will start weaving with SHUTTLE #1. The next shuttle you will use when #1 runs out is #2, and so on. 

Do you see that you are using these shuttles in the reverse order in which they were wound? What this does is it takes the yarn left on the ball or skein and when starting to wind with that end it puts it in place to be the very last of the yarn when that shuttle is emptying.  By reversing the order of the shuttles you wind, you will match up the end of one shuttle with the yarn at the start of the next.  

BUT what if you don't have a lot of shuttles.  What you have to do then if you have only one or two shuttles is to go to the ball of weft yarn you wound your first shuttle with and wind your shuttle again - or a second shuttle if you have one - and when you are done winding - you are going to have to take the yarn off that shuttle and wind the shuttle again this time starting to wind with what was the very last wind you did when you just wound that shuttle. (Confusing - yep - follow it through - you just wound the shuttle to start weaving again because your shuttle ran out of weft. The new yarn you will start with is the wrong variegated or self-stripe to match where your weft ran out. BUT the yarn that you started winding with is exactly what you want to have come off that shuttle first.) So to make this easier - you need something to wind the yarn from that you just wound on the shuttle. A piece of cardboard - another shuttle - that is easiest - anything good to wind yarn around.  Get the end of the yarn from your just wound shuttle and start winding off the shuttle onto the cardboard - whatever - make sure that this yarn end will go under the rest of the yarn being wound on. Once all the yarn is off your shuttle take the end that came off the shuttle last and start winding a that same shuttle again - starting with that end.  You will be reversing the order the yarn was on the shuttle when you wind now.  What was the weft end on the ball that you started winding with will now be the end now that you will start weaving with. That is the end that matches the end of the weft that ended your first shuttle - and what you need to match to start weaving again.  As I said above, this is only needed if you do not have a solid color weft - as with a solid color weft - any part of the yarn will match where you ended up when the shuttle ran out of yarn.

GET READY TO START A NEW SHUTTLE

1) The weft is just about run out on your shuttle. You want enough OLD shuttle yarn to go 3/4 of the way across the shed with enough for a tail of at least three or four inches long.  You just put your shuttle through, and if you see that there is not enough weft to weave another row, get the rest of the weft yarn off the shuttle and cut it so that you have weft 3/4 through the open shed and the extra for the tail.  TAKE THE END OF THE YARN FROM THE OLD SHUTTLE YOU JUST CUT OFF AND PUT IT THROUGH TWO WARP THREADS DOWN BELOW THE WARP UNDER THE LOOM.

 What you see above is how your shed should look with the end of the weft yarn from your shuttle after following STEP 1.  (The white paper is under just to make the yarn more visible in the photo.) Notice the yarn is up on a 45 degree angle - with the tail under the warp. 

2)  Take your NEW shuttle and pass it through the same open shed from the same side you went in with the end of your last, now empty, shuttle. Bring the shuttle all the way out of the shed on the other side - but leave its end coming out of the side it went into the shed. Put your new shuttle down and out of your way. TAKE THE END OF THE NEW SHUTTLE YARN AND TUCK IT DOWN BETWEEN TWO WARP THREADS ABOUT TWO INCHES  BEFORE WHERE THE OLD SHUTTLE YARN IS TUCKED DOWN BELOW THE WARP. Make sure the weft tail is about four inches down below.


Above you see the NEW and OLD weft tucked down below. At this point if you followed Step 2, this is how your weft should look. Note again that the weft is up at a 45 degree angle - and the tails are below the warp. 

3) Before you beat, take hold of the OLD yarn tail and pinch the end warp it comes over and give a tug on the tail. Do the same with the NEW yarn tail - this time holding onto the tail under the warp and give a tug to the weft coming our of the shed that you are going to be weaving with soon. Make sure the two weft yarns in the shed CROSS OVER each other. This locks them in. Put your heddle in NEUTRAL!

NOW BEAT PUSHING THE TWO YARNS TOGETHER AND INTO THE WEFT ROW BELOW!


Above the shuttle is off to the left side of the loom. The shed is closed - heddle in neutral. The new shuttle yarn has been started. The two yarns are together in the weave where the change was made. It has blended together. The change is not visible. 

4) KEEP WEAVING! You are weaving with the new shuttle. If your shuttle runs out again - do the same thing! 

When you take this off the loom, wet finish. I don't care what fiber(s) it is - always wet finish. Once it is completely dry you are going to eliminate the evidence. Lay the cloth flat with the tails facing you. Take hold of one of the tails and hold it up - not tight but to keep where it meets the cloth up from the rest of the cloth. You are going to snip (cut) the tail off. With several changes of shuttles you will have several tails to clip off. Use the curved scissors I recommend above. Again, do not cut anything that is not supposed to be cut!

AND YOU ARE DONE! You have ended the OLD shuttle and started a NEW shuttle with the same yarn. Do this as many times as the shuttle runs out.




 


 








Wednesday, October 7, 2020

THINGS TO KNOW WHEN DIRECT WARPING

 There are some things that should be more clearly stated about direct warping that go beyond the back process and often are left out all together.  One of the first things to understand is that when direct warping - whether you are using a single vertical peg, or a horizontal rod as I have described in the article on this site, "Another Way to Direct Warp", multiple pegs, or hybrid warping using a warping board to direct warp - is that all you are doing when you bring the yarn from the loom to the warping peg (etc.) is measuring the yarn to weave the length you want your weave to be on the loom.  That length of warp on the loom is not the length of warp you want your final off the loom length to be. It is longer to account for shrinkage, waste, fringe, tie on, etc. This length is calculated as part of your project calculations with a weaving calculator.  To get that length that the calculator gives you for your warp you need to measure the distance from the warping peg to the position of the apron rod in the back of your loom at which you will warp to.  With a single peg - measure from the center of your loom - to the peg. 

When you warp to a single peg your warp is creating a V shape with the point of the V at the peg and the top of the V at each end of the warp on your heddle. Geometry tells us that the distance from the point of the V to the center point between the two legs of the V at the top of the V is shorter than the the length of each arm of the V. (This can be confusing at first - so take a moment to read that last sentence again and let it sink in.) What does this mean? It means that the warp at the center of the loom is shorter than the warp at the ends - and this distance right and left of the center of your heddle gets longer. You want all of the warp yarn to be AT LEAST the length of the  center of the heddle to the peg. This means you will have longer warp on the sides - but that is necessary when warping with a single peg - or your warp will be too short for your project.  Are you wasting some yarn? Yes. Is there a way around that? Not if you warp to a single peg. With a horizontal rod to warp to you should have equal lengths of warp from heddle to rod. With a warping board for hybrid warp, you will still have the V. With multiple pegs, you will have less of a V though you will create multiple Vs warping to multiple pegs and yarn length will still vary but not as much.. 

 When new weavers direct warp - and some experienced weavers as well who have not figured out this next thing - they often find the warp peg come flying off the table it is attached to and the peg and the yarn come at them at the loom resulting in warp tangled on the floor. Sometimes the warp can be salvaged and sometimes it can't. This happens to many - it happened to me on my second project ever and it happened twice during that warp. The first time I could salvage the yarn. The second time I could not.  Why does this happen? There is too much tension on the warp between the loom and the peg. 

There is no need to have tension on the warp when you are warping to the peg! As we just established above you are measuring the yarn when you warp to the peg. If there is tension on the warp, the warp acts like a spring - if you pull a spring too much it wants to spring back! The peg will only take so much before the warp wants to pull it in the direction from which it is being pulled - and it is going to go flying.  To prevent this there are two things you can do - one is to clamp the peg on the far side of the table and never the side closest to the loom. Closest to the loom if the peg is pulled it has nowhere to go but at you. On the other side of the table when it is pulled it will first pull itself into the edge of the table it is clamped to. But sometimes even that will not stop it and it still comes flying off with the warp. Or the pulling causes the warp to travel up the peg and come off the top.

One other thing that happens when there is too much tension on the warp from the loom to the peg is that you are stretching the yarn. Again, think of the yarn as a spring. As it is pulled it gets longer - much longer than the spring is when it is not being stretched from pulling. And since you are measuring the yarn to the peg, what is happening with the yarn under tension is that when you take the warp off the peg to wind it on the back beam as soon as it is off the top of the peg, the warp yarn RELAXES! And it gets SHORTER! Oops! What you thought was 90" long was stretched to 90" long and it really is 85 inches long or shorter! Your warp is too short for the length of the project you intended to weave, and you won't know it until you get near the end of your warp on the loom while weaving and you are no where near the length you thought you would have.

There is no reason for the tension. It is OK for your warp to sag from the loom to the peg AS LONG AS it sags consistently from one end of the heddle to the other.  This is not a problem. It may be a little longer than you need BUT LONGER IS BETTER THAN SHORTER when it comes to warp! 

But the books say to wind the warp onto the back beam under tension! Yes, it does but you have not been winding on yet - you are just measuring your yarn from the loom to the peg while you warp. When you have warped all of the slots and take the warp off the peg to wind it onto the back beam THAT IS WHEN YOU PUT THE WARP UNDER TENSION. 

When you are more experienced these things start to click and make sense. It really is simple but you don't usually see this in a book or even in the videos showing direct warp to a rigid heddle loom. 

What else can go wrong?  Lets go back a little - before you have warped the loom but are about to start. Look at your loom. The heddle is generally located not at the center of the loom but more toward the back of the loom frame. The space from the heddle to the back of the loom is shorter than the heddle to the front of the loom. SHORT END IS THE BACK OF THE LOOM. LONG END IS THE FRONT OF THE LOOM. THE BACK OF THE LOOM IS THE WARP END. THE FRONT OF THE LOOM IS THE WEAVING AND FINISHED CLOTH END. Before you warp make sure your loom is facing the correct way. AND when direct warping you put the FRONT of the loom toward the warp peg. You bring the warp from the ball of yarn around the back APRON ROD (the apron rod is the dowel or flat "stick" that you attach the warp to) through the slot in the heddle and over to the direct peg - put ir over the peg and come back to do this again for the width of your warp in the heddle.  So now you know what is the back of the loom and what is the front of the loom. You do not want to weave from the back of the loom - the space between the heddle and the beam is just too short.  Weaving is done on the front of the loom - the long part of the loom.  

ALWAYS WARP SO THAT THE YARN IS CENTERED ON THE HEDDLE. (When you get a new heddle the first thing you should do is take a marking pen and make a mark on the heddle frame at the center of the heddle - either that will correspond to a slot or a hole.)  Do not warp with the yarn on one side of the heddle and the rest of the heddle is empty. As you weave you are weaving with the warp under strong tension between the beams. If you are not centered you are pulling he beams on the side the warp is on and the empty side is going to try to flex - which can break the beam. When planning out where your warp will go on the heddle - with the heddle off the loom and in front of you on a table, start at the middle slot and count out to the right and then to the left to find the starting warp slot and the ending warp slot with the center slot in the middle. This means when you count to one side, count the center slot BUT when you count then to the other side do not count the center slot it is already counted - start in that direction with the slot next to the center slot. A simple tip is to take a piece of yarn and tie it around the top of the frame of the loom through the starting slot and another through the ending slot. On the loom when warping start at one marked slot and stop at the other marked slot. If you often use the same widths to weave on that heddle - keep the marking yarns tied on  - use a different color pair of yarns for different weaving widths and make a note of which is which width. (Sounds like it is part of a song in the Wizard of Oz! 😀 )  And before I start singing - we will move on. 😉

Also before you start weaving, you may notice that the heddle (on some looms) is different on one side from the other side. On some rigid heddle looms the heddle is bumped out on one side. On other rigid heddle looms the heddle is flat on both sides. So which is the front of the heddle and which is the back?  With a heddle that is flat on both sides it does not matter. But guess what? On a heddle with the bump out on one side and flat on the other it also does not matter.  Kromski looms and Ashford looms have heddles made with the bump out on one side of the plastic of the heddle - it is in the area of the hole. One thing that this does is strengthen the plastic around the hole. Yarn passing through the hole constantly is not going to wear through that thicker plastic that forms the bump. But is there a front and back and a right side and a wrong side to use to beat with? Not really. Some will say the name of the company that made the heddle is on the front of the heddle. Hmm? Kromski puts the name on the heddle on the same side as the bump out. Ashford puts the name of the heddle on the flat side of the heddle. Which one is right? It is really a matter of personal preference. My own preference is to beat with the heddle with the bump out. I find that it pushes the weft row more directly than the flat side BUT am I right? Some like using the flat side.  Are they wrong? Some looms only have a heddle that is flat on both sides. Is that a problem? NO! There are as many using the bumped out side to beat with as there are those using the flat side when their heddles have two different sides. (An interesting side note - Kromski's 10 dent heddle is flat on both sides. When I asked them about this they had no answer as to why the 10 dent is flat and the 5, 8, and 12 dent heddles are bumped out on one side.) So decide for yourself if you have a bumped out heddle on one side. Try a project one way and another project the other way - and see which you prefer or conclude that there is no preference. 

OK - here is something that comes up in discussions often. You will see in books and in videos on direct warping that it is said that when you put the yarn around the apron rod to put it in the slot you MUST alternate the yarn going over and under the apron rod - first over, then under. When I first started weaving I was making myself crazy making sure that I got this right - checking with each warp slot that I passed the loop of yarn through. GUESS WHAT? The yarn goes this way whether you think about it or not. It can only go this way - over and under alternating - it does it itself. If it is not, you did something wrong in bringing the yarn from the ball to go around the apron rod and through the slot. It really cannot go any other way if you are warping correctly. 

 When you wind the warp onto the back beam, you are winding the apron rod on with the warp tied on  to it and with the warp UNDER TENSION (how you put the tension on is another article in itself), you must put a warp separator under every layer of warp that you wind on. Warp separator can be as simple as sheets of brown package wrapping paper. A warp separator must be thick and it must not compress so that the one layer of warp sinks into the war layer below. Thin paper - even thin cloth  is not a good warp separator as it will push in with each warp under tension and push into the row below and maybe even rip the paper. The purpose of the separator is to keep each layer of warp apart and not mixing into the layer below.  Some use flat strips of wood put in between the warp as it is wound on. Some use the rubber no slip shelf liner - the one with the bumps on the surface of rubber. Many use the package wrapping paper which is sold in office stores or even Walmart in the stationary aisle. That paper lasts for a long time and many weaves.

There is such a thing as double warp. I am not going to go into how that is done but know that it is two warp threads in each slot and each hole. The yarn that this is done with MUST be thin enough to fit doubled in a slot and in a hole. Don't force it in - it will just rub and break as you are weaving. A beginning weaver should not be doing double warp until they have a lot of experience with single regular warp.

What can go wrong while warping? 

 If you find that there is not enough warp yarn on the ball after you have been warping and then passing  the loop through the slot in the heddle does not make it to the peg, stop and bring that loop back to the loom. Pass it back through to the back of the heddle and tie it onto the apron rod. Get another ball of warp yarn and tie the end on the apron rod and keep warping, Make sure you are starting in the now empty slot that you found the warp was too short to make it to the peg. It is always good to have another ball of yarn on hand - for warp and for weft.

Before you take your warp off the warping peg, go across every slot and make sure you have not missed any slots that needed a warp loop going to the peg. It is far easier now to fix this than later.

When tying on the warp to the warp apron rod - at the start of your warp or at the end - or in between - make sure your knots are strong and cannot come loose. A loose knot here will cause problems when you get toward the end of the weave. Double - even triple knots are good! 

When you have tied your warp to the front beam, every bundle of warp that is tied on must be equal in tension to all of the others. Go along the bundles and the warp behind the heddle with two fingers and tap gently. Every bundle must feel the same tension. If not you will have problems when you weave. It can take multiple adjustments back and forth across the warp bundles to get them even. Time spent here with this will save problems later.

 

Once you have finished warping go and read my article on weaving a header. That is the next thing you have to do before you start weaving with your project yarn!