Friday, October 12, 2012

Troubleshooting tips for the beginning weaver

Having waited four months to get my Ashford Knitters Loom out of its bag, I guess the amount of time I've spent with it this week is not unreasonable.  Especially since it's so cool and amazing that it doesn't take a week to get pretty good at weaving.  Behold:

Let's zoom in on this project, which is finally making good use of a gorgeous fingering-weight seacell/silk combination from a long-ago Biscotte club.

Fairly even weave, yes?

Though you can see where the density and balance shifts a bit if you look up close.

To get to here, I started small.  Literally.

Tips for the beginning weaver

What to weave first

I had a huge inspiration when I tried to find a place to set up the loom and the warping peg the first time, which was to not try to make a whole scarf.  Especially if you're on your own for the whole 'warping' thing, it's not a bad idea to set the loom up along the shorter side of a rectangular table.

This allows you to work out the worst of the learning curve without wrecking too much great yarn.  What I've done here is set up some cotton yarn for what you might call an abbreviated table runner, or possibly a really long placemat, which I'll use as a base for spiders in my Halloween decorating scheme.  Because heh: for a project like that, the more mistakes you make, the better the end result.

Setting up the loom

When you've finished the first part of warping this loom, you will have double strands of yarn running through each slot.  The next step is to put one half of these pairs of strands through the corresponding hole.  It matters which strand goes where.

Fortunately, it's ridiculously easy to correct any mistakes on this point: just slip both strands out of place, untwist, and run them into the place they should be.

Forgetting to shift Down after an Up

It took me a surprisingly long time to realize that when weaving personally, and not just watching others do it, I really would be changing which set of strands were higher with every pass of the shuttle.  Oh no! I thought when the penny finally dropped.  How will I remember whether I'm supposed to be up or down, if I have to run for the phone in the middle?  Turns out it's really easy to tell if you get it wrong. 

And again: super easy to fix.  You just push the shuttle back the way it came and start that pass over.

Missing a spot

One problem I didn't anticipate, and which I caught only because I was looking so closely at the fabric I was getting, is that it's not at all hard to miss a strand when you're passing the shuttle through, especially if your tension is not all it could be (see below.)

The fix for this is the same as the one I just described.  In knitting terms: 'rip back'.

Maintaining tension

The instructions for warping a loom place a lot of emphasis on keeping a good tight tension when you're winding the strands onto the loom in preparation for weaving.  It's supposed to be easier when you do this with a friend but it turns out that's only true if your friend appreciates the importance of even tension.  Ahem.  As a result, for the sea silk scarf I am working with some strands that have a good inch of slack over what their neighbours do, and I have to pay attention to keep from passing the shuttle over or under them when I should be going under or over.

The fix: tug those strands back by hand onto the roller at the back of the loom whenever they get in the way.  With a little care, nobody will ever know there was an issue just by looking at your finished project.

Keeping your edges neat

Beginning to weave is, for me, a lot like learning to drive or learning a new sewing machine.  That sense of how hard to push down on the pedal, or in the case of a loom, how hard to pull on the shuttle, is something you have to develop through practise.

At the beginning I got a lot of these loose sloppy turns.  Now I pause after each pass and tug a little on the shuttle end of the yarn until I'm happy with how it's sitting.  If I pull too tight it's no problem to pull it back again before making the next pass.

Where to weave, at home

The Knitters Loom in particular comes with a notch to help you set it on the edge of a table while you're weaving.  Here's a secret: you don't have to sit at a table while weaving.  I've been crashing out on the sofa, throwing a big cushion or two onto the span between my knees and ankles, and propping the loom up on the edge of them.  ha! who knew weaving could be as comfy as knitting is?  (hint: probably anybody who's spent any time weaving.)

Of course this policy probably wouldn't apply at most knitting groups, unless there are a lot of chairs for everybody else and/or the other attendees don't mind your legs stretched across their laps.

Me, signing off

Now that I've written up these tips, all I care about is finishing off the seacell scarf... but I have paperwork to do and I am pretty sure that the first word anybody who knows me would use to describe me is 'sensible'.  So, erm, off I go to get that paperwork done.  Yes.

Right after I show you how my Halloween cloth came out.

This is before blocking, and before I've retied and trimmed the tassels, but you get the idea... which is mainly that ORANGE AND PURPLE!  wild combo, gotta try it in wool.

Have a great weekend - see you Monday!


Trish said...

That's so neat! I'm very impressed with your weaving. And the things you can do with your stash...
How big a scarf would you get out of one skein of fingering?

Mary Keenan said...

I'm not exactly sure, Trish... I'll let you know when this one comes off the loom!

Yvette said...

Noo!!!! I've been tempted by the siren call of weaving for a while now but really don't have the time or cash for another craft. Tempt me not with your attractive photos and helpful advice.

Mary Keenan said...

heh heh heh