Gear Indicator part 1

In the introduction to SpinKnit the editors talk about spinning knitters be very adventurous and more likely to ride motorcycles. I guess that makes being a spinning, knitting, dyeing weaver almost certainly a motorcycle rider. A few days ago I mused about deciding on my next weaving project on a motorcycle related website chat room. It turns out that another visitor thought it would be great to give his wife a hand woven silk scarf for her upcoming birthday. The same gentleman is in development of a motorcycle item I really want, a gear position indicator. This tells you what gear your motorcycle is in. My bike doesn’t come with this as a stock accessory so you have to count and keep track in your head, something I’m extremely bad at. Bad things can happen if you end up in the wrong gear so this isn’t a trivial matter. So we arrange a little trade/barter.

Now my male motorcycle friend doesn’t know the first thing about weaving or the process so I thought I’d document the project here so he can see what goes into his hand woven gift. I’m going to be using non weaving terms and/or defining those terms for the “lay person” audience, so my weaving and fiber artist friends please bear with me on that (and if you have suggestions on better ways to describe or explain, please let me know).

So, on to the project. I’ve been wanting/planning/drooling over this draft (drafts are like the blue prints or instructions for weaving) for several months. I placed an order with WEBS last fall and included the draft.
60/2 Advancing Twill Scarf

I happen to have 500gr of 60/2 silk in my stash. I kettle dyed 60gr in a teal and 60gr in iris just for this project.

A little bit about 60/2 silk. The 60 part is a fiber/yarn/textile number relating to the number of yards/meters per pound/kg. It tells us a good idea of how fine the yarn or thread is. The 2 is the number of plies in the yarn thread. This is primarily a weaver’s designation. Other things we look at as fiber artists is yards per pound, 60/2 has 14880yds/lb, and WPI or wraps per inch. WPI is the number of times you can wrap the yarn around something in one inch. It’s hard to get calipers or other measuring devices to accurately measure yarn, so fiber folks use WPI a lot. The WPI for 60/2 silk is 82, meaning the thread is about 1/82″ thick. This number becomes very important when we talk about sett.

First some basic terms. Warp is the lengthwise threads in a woven item. The warp threads are usually measured first and secured to the loom. Tension on these threads is required for the weaving to really happen as you are either going over and under these with the weft, or crosswise yarn, or you are lifting part of these threads in a particular way to pass the weft through. Putting the warp on the loom, or dressing or warping the loom is the most important part of the process.  It is also the most time consuming. It’s not uncommon to wind on enough warp to weave several items before you have to do it again. I’m a glutton for punishment and I want to practice my warping techniques, so I’m only winding on one scarf.

So I need to know how long each warp thread will be. This is easy because the draft says it’s a 3 yard warp. Still I like to check. The scarf length is 72″ and the “loom waste” on my loom is 18″, which means the absolute minimum warp length for me would be 2.5 yards. I have a pretty small loom, it’s actually a table loom on a treadle stand, larger floor looms have waste of about a yard which is why the draft recommends that. I’m not going to go into loom waste except to say that it is part of the warp that you can’t weave due to the mechanics of the loom. There is a twisted fringe on the scarf which I would need to account for if I was doing more than one scarf on this warp, but since it is just one, the fringe can come out of the loom waste. So for my loom I’ll have 1/2 yard of extra warp I can use to sample and test my threading before the scarf and/or play with after. This is good. Too much warp doesn’t hurt much, too little and you have a big problem.

I warp my loom “sectionally”. This means that instead of measuring and putting all the warp threads on at once, I wind a spool of thread for each thread I need in one inch (the space between the dividers on my warp beam). Warping normal, or with all threads at once is a talent and a skill that is admirable. It also is near impossible to do by yourself and fraught with myriad dangers and pitfalls that I usually fall face first into. My other loom I have to warp normally because is isn’t set up for sectional warping, but that loom is only 8″ wide and I almost exclusively use it for experimentation. Sectional warping takes more and specialized equipment, but is easier to manage solo and I feel I have more control over the process. It’s also a lot easier to be able to step away at any point in the process without the risk of a tangled and unusable disaster. One other down fall with sectional warping though is you have to wind on in full inches. I don’t see this as a problem though, my draft says the scarf is 8.5″, 472 warp ends sett at 56 ends per inch or epi. So I plan on winding on 9″ or 504 ends. This will give me extra warp threads I can use if I get broken threads.

Back to sett since I used that word again. Sett is the number of warp threads or ends in a given measurement, or an inch here in the US. This one factor that determines how dense the fabric is. So sett varies due to the thickness of the yarn, but also by the pattern of the weave. Tabby, or plain weave the weft thread is going over then under every warp thread so space needs to be left between the threads to allow that transition from front to back. Tabby sett is usually around 1/2 the wpi minus about 10% so for 60/2 silk it would be about 40 epi. In twill, the weft thread may pass over 2, 3, or more warp threads before transitioning to the other side, so you want the warp threads closer together to get a good sound fabric. Twill sett is usually around 2/3’s of the WPI +-10%. For 60/2 silk this can be up to 60 epi. Sett isn’t just a mathematical formula, most things in weaving are more than the math (though the math is important) it also has to do with the feel or “hand” of the resulting cloth. The hand is influenced by the type of fiber in the thread and how it was spun. So sampling is of utmost importance. Basically, with a new-to-you yarn or thread you weave some with many different setts and patterns so you know how it’s going to act and feel. My draft tells me to sett this at 56 ends per inch, and I’m going to trust it for the time being.

So, I need to wind 56 spools with enough thread for 9″ of warp width, or 9 (number of inches I’m winding on) x 3 (length of each warp thread) = 27 (yards each spool needs to have).

Winding spools

So I would 28 yards on each spool just as a buffer, better to have too much than too little.

Next step, too the loom!

There’s a nifty device called a tension box. It sits on the back beam of the loom. You route each thread through the back comb, around the dowels, and out through the front comb. Mine has a yardage counter on it (or a 1/10 or a yard counter and no, I don’t want to talk about it). This tension box makes sure the threads are nice and even, aligned and uniformly tight. One inch of warp gets threaded through here and attached to the lash cord on the loom’s warp beam. Then it’s a matter of winding that warp beam until 3 yards of warp is in that section.

Spools to tension box

Handling this fine silk is a little more complicated than I had anticipated. It’s taking a bit longer than normal to wind on each section. It is winding on though and it looks good too.

The first warp sections

Tonight I will finish winding the warp on and start threading the heddles. Since I’m winding on an extra 1/2″ or 28 ends, it occurred to me I might want to rethink my sett. I have 4 reeds, the device you use to pack the weft threads into place while weaving (more later). I have 8, 10, 12, and 15 dent reeds (dent is # of slots per inch). If I sley (thread the reed) for 56 ends per inch, I will have to use the 12 dent reed and sley in an order of 4 then 5 then 5 ends in each slot (repeat). That’s a lot of warp threads grouped together. However, if I use my 15 dent and sley it in a 3-4-4 pattern I get 55 epi. I like this idea a lot better. I can do 3-4-4-4 on the 15 dent to get 56.5 epi as well. But doing the math, 472 ends / 56 = 8.43″ width in the reed but 472/55=8.58″. The difference is only .15″ which I don’t think will make a noticeable difference in the feel of the cloth or the final width of the scarf (usually the finished piece is 5 – 20% narrower then it is on the loom. This project I’m expecting a little under 10% draw in) so the final question is how much more weft thread will I need.  So I need about 4000 weft threads of either 8.43″ or 8.58″. The way I’m seeing the math now, it doesn’t add up to my 2.12 oz I have dyed and ready to go either way. However, the draft calls for 2 oz weft thread so I’m going to do more pondering and figure where my match is going wrong.

Next time – I’ll have the real camera to take pics of the process instead of the cell phone. Dear hus-beast had the the camera last night for one of his evil schemes.

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