This afternoon I wove off the rest of the Hop Vine warp. I am pretty pleased with the cloth, and have even come around to liking the three sections that I was so critical of in my last post.
To add some variation to the pattern, I decided to switch to the “rose fashion” treadling for the remainder of the warp. You can see the difference in the two photos below. The first one shows the star fashion treadling. It is a series of diamonds with strong diagonals. The second is the same pattern and tabby colors woven rose fashion. Four-pointed stars alternate with ovals to create more undulation.
Here’s a close up of the cloth with the rose fashion treadling.
July has been a very busy time, what with all the watering (it’s been hot and dry), squishing of bugs, and weeding, not to mention flax harvesting. However, I recently did a tiny bit of weaving for my double-weave study group with the Pioneer Valley Weavers Guild, led by the elegant and brilliant Barbara Elkins.
Doubleweave is a versatile technique that lets you weave two layers of cloth at the same time. The layers can be joined at the right or left edges, joined at both edges, they can be totally separate, or they can exchange periodically (i.e., the bottom layer comes to the top and the top layer goes to the bottom). Our samples used four shafts, which is the minimum number you need.
The whole process has been full of visual surprises, beginning with winding the warp. For our samples, we wound a warp with two alternating colors. I chose black and white for maximum contrast. On the left, below, is the cross with my counting thread. You can see the separation of the white and black layers. On the right is the warp as I was beaming on. The alternating black and white ends get sorted into their respective layers when they go through the lease sticks. In the section of the warp that hasn’t yet been beamed on there is a cool transition between where they alternate and where they become separated. I warp back to front, so this un-separated section is in the front of the loom.
Today it is snowing. A much more typical wintry day than February 1st. Here’s what I have been doing so far today, fiber-wise:
I wove a section on my new warp, threaded once again with Young Lovers Knot, for a new batch of journals. Today I wove the section in the photo below. The blue is 22/2 cottolin dyed with woad and weld, and the tabby weft is teal 20/2 cotton, commercially dyed. When I first dyed the cottolin I was disappointed not to get a better green, but with the brighter colored tabby background it looks very nice anyway.
I changed the treadling for the sections where I’m using 20/2 linen or 22/2 cottolin because no matter what I do, I can’t beat it square with these yarns. With 10/2 cotton or 10/2 tencel it’s not a problem. Linen is just less inclined to submit to compression. It’s one of the things I love about linen, it has a mind of its own. And really, it’s not meant for overshot pattern weft, so who can blame it? To accommodate the linen, I shortened the square (or table) by two picks.
I wet-spun spun some bleached flax top (from Louet, not my own). It’s tow (short fibers). I did about half this bobbin today. My legs got wet, but it went with the snowy theme outdoors, so I didn’t really mind.
I was originally planning to spin a second bobbin and ply them, but I think I will leave it as singles and take out some of the extra twist when I wind it onto bobbins for weaving. My new plan is to spin the other half dry and then weave samples with them (using them for weft) to see if there is a noticeable difference between wet and dry spun tow.
I did the second extraction on two new dyebaths that I started over the weekend. One is madder (8 oz. roots bought from Aurora Silk a few years ago). The other is the Flavoparmelia lichens I collected this winter, plus the bark they were growing on. Since it is snowing, I heated these indoors today. Fortunately, they both smell amazing. Too bad you can’t smell them. The lichen smells like hot piney woods in the summer or a toasty fire in a cabin in the woods. The madder smells fruity, like red wine or blackberries getting boiled for jelly.
I plan to extract each one more time, then combine the extractions for stronger color. With the combined extractions, I am hoping to get a respectably rich color from the first madder bath, at least. The Flavoparmelia is an experiment, but I figure I’ll give it every opportunity to yield a strong color, if it can.
I am sticking with cellulose yarns for the time being, which are proving to be tricky. The colors are coming out lighter than I expect each time, with the exception of the CRAZY bright weld earlier in the fall/winter. Here’s how it’s looking woven up. These two photos show 20/2 linen half-bleach pattern weft with black 20/2 cotton tabby (on the black warp).
These two show the same weld-dyed yarn with a light blue 20/2 cotton tabby weft. It’s a very woady blue, but it’s commercial. (In these sections I had not yet shortened the square, hence it is rectangular.)
Last but not least, I have stirred up my new umbilicate lichen vats to incorporate oxygen. I will post about that separately.
It’s been great to have an extra day to work on all these projects. We should have a leap day every year.
This weekend I sewed together the last of the books from the Young Lovers Knot warp. Three have blue 10/2 tencel for the pattern weft (the color is called Moroccan Blue from Textiva Yarns) with black 20/2 tabby weft. One has a copper-colored 10/2 cotton pattern weft (a UKI color called Mead) with black 20/2 tabby, and one has green 10/2 tencel (Emerald Green from Textiva Yarns) pattern weft with 20/2 black tabby.
Here are a few more details about them. The coptic binding lets the journal open flat as you write. This is an advantage because you can write anywhere (e.g., sitting snug in bed with your journal propped on your knees). Also, you don’t waste any paper because you can write all the way to the edges. These journals are meant for writing, rather than drawing or painting. The paper is smooth, so you can write without bumps and lumps. Any kind of pen will work (except Sharpie bleeds through). I prefer old-fashioned ball points, my pen of choice for decades. The paper isn’t too plain, though, it has visual texture, with little flecks of light brown against the cream-colored paper.
The spines are exposed so you see the folds of the signatures, and the coptic stitch is decorative. I like how the stitching extends the feeling of the threads in the cloth on the covers. It makes the books feel connected, like the covers and pages grew together.
Matching the color of the waxed linen thread with the yarns in the cover is fun, though not straightforward. I bought certain colors of waxed linen thread specifically because they matched the yarns I have. But when the cloth is all woven together, interactions between the pattern yarn and the tabby yarn create new color effects. This is always true with weaving, but it happens in a particular way with overshot because of the interactions of the tabby weft with the pattern weft, as well as the warp. Because of these interactions, two colors that were similar when compared one-on-one no longer look alike. I prefer the color of the waxed linen thread to blend into the cloth on the covers. To me it adds to the feeling that the cloth and the stitching are one process or one structure.
My journals are no longer available at Food for Thought Books, since they are in the midst of textbook rush and the space is filled with books for classes for the new semester. For the moment, I have them here at home. Here is the description I posted with the books at the store:
“These books were handmade by Michelle Parrish of Local Color Dyes and Wood Thrush Weaving – Amherst, MA. I hand wove the cloth for the covers using cotton, tencel, and cotton-linen blend yarns. The pattern is a variation on a traditional overshot motif called “Young Lovers’ Knot.” I sewed the books with a Coptic binding using waxed linen thread. In addition to being decorative, the Coptic binding allows your book to lay flat as you write. The writing paper is 50% post consumer recycled, acid free, and FSC certified. Though all the books in this series share the same pattern, each book is one of a kind.
I made these books so that people could write in them. Writing helps me make sense and meaning of my life, to re-tell and remember, to think, plan and decide, and to create continuity and a sense of personal history over time. It connects me to myself. I have kept a journal since I was 7 years old.
The overshot pattern on the cover holds a story of its own, and is connected to a longer history. In times past, these patterns were woven with linen or cotton and wool, and made warm, durable bed covers. Many old coverlets were made entirely by hand and represented months of work: the linen was grown, processed, and spun, and the wool sheared, washed, spun, and dyed, by the weaver and her family. There are hundreds of traditional overshot patterns, many with evocative names. Each of us lives a unique story of our own, but we are all connected to one another, past and present, through the fabric of life. I hope one of these books will connect you to others who labored, created, lived and loved, and passed their stories to us in the form of these traditional patterns.
And I hope these journals offer a space to write some of your own story.”
I have been weaving for the past few days (whoo hoo!). I am making cloth for my next batch of hand bound books. In the face of a million possibilities I decided to stick with something traditional. So, I picked a few miniature overshot designs with names I thought might be appealing and/or seasonal, such as Young Lovers’ Knot and Star of Bethlehem, did some math, wound a warp, dressed my loom, and got to work.
I decided to start with the Young Lovers’ Knot. (Actually, I don’t know if it’s one lover or more than one for that apostrophe.) My warp is black 20/2 cotton which I picked because I wanted the scale of the pattern to be proportionate to the size of the books. Well, it is delicate and pretty, but in retrospect my choice of yarn was crazy since it is taking forever to weave. For the tabby I’ve been using the same 20/2 black as the warp, and for the pattern I picked red in 10/2 cotton, thinking lovers, drama, passion….
Anyway, the point is, the second repeat of the design looked very different from the first and I though I had made a mistake. “Hmm. Weird. Haven’t woven overshot in a while, must be rusty.” I checked my treadling carefully and everything was accurate. I used my trusty angle-measuring tool, set at 45 degrees, and my beat wasn’t consistent between the repeats; one repeat was more square than the other. I figured my beat was the problem, and that I would settle into a rhythm after a while. So I kept going, and finished up the red section. The problem didn’t go away. I didn’t mind the alternating look between pattern repeats because it was consistent and kind of rhythmical. In fact, I liked the little daisies in the corners of the less compact version of the pattern. Daisies, diamonds, daisies, diamonds. Not too bad.
I decided to switch colors and yarns. For the new pattern yarn I picked 10/2 tencel in a bright green. Shiny, vibrant, almost neon… passion of a different sort. But same thing after two more repeats: they looked distinctly different, but again I checked and confirmed I had not made a treadling error. Why did it keep happening the same way each time? It would be an unlikely coincidence if I kept making the same mistake in the same place in the pattern each time.
Then I remembered: emboldening tabby! Clearly that was my problem, but since it was happening on a nice, regular basis, it wasn’t really an eyesore. Maybe I didn’t really need to fix it. However, it kept bugging me because I knew how to solve the problem.
Why Overshot Has an Emboldening Tabby Problem
Overshot is a weave structure where the pattern is created with long weft floats. They would be too unstable to be useful unless you secured the floats to a stable background. To make a stable background, you weave a pick (or row) of plain weave between each pick of pattern weft. Typically the plain weave thread is the same yarn as the warp, and the pattern weft is much thicker. Plain weave is a very stable weave structure because it has the maximum number of intersections of vertical (warp) and horizontal (weft) threads. For some reason that I’ve always meant to look up, plain weave is also called tabby, especially when it’s used in this way to alternate with pattern wefts.
Plain weave is made up of two alternating sheds: usually all the odd numbered shafts or harnesses work together, and all the even ones work together, and they alternate. They are sometimes called tabby a and tabby b to tell them apart. For overshot, you weave one row of pattern, then tabby a, the second row of pattern, then tabby b, the third row of pattern, back to tabby a, and so on.
Depending on your overshot pattern, one tabby tends to push the pattern weft floats apart, and the other tends to let them squeeze together. The pushy one can make the pattern pixelated, slightly elongated, or hard to see. The squeezy one helps the pattern pull together and look compact and distinct. The proper term for the squeezy tabby is “emboldening tabby.” You want the emboldening tabby. I was only getting the emboldening tabby on every other pattern repeat. Rats. After weaving the green section I decided, for the sake of consistency and for the sake of my good name as a master weaver, to fix it.
So, I counted the number of picks in the pattern repeat… an odd number. That meant that every time I started the pattern again, I was on the opposite tabby. You can add or subtract a row from the pattern to get an even number of picks in the pattern, which will fix this problem. Where you add or subtract the row, of course, changes the look of the pattern slightly. Also, the problem wasn’t at the “turning point” in the middle of the pattern (it’s symmetrical) because the top and bottom of each repeat were consistent; the problem happened between the repeats. So I decided to add a pattern pick at the end of the pattern each time. Ta Da! Consistent emboldening tabby. It no longer bugs me.
See for yourself.
The middle row has the emboldening tabby. If you look in the denser, square sections of the motif (OK they’re rectangular), the places with four little lines in a row should make a small box with no gaps between the rows. In the bottom and top rows of the pattern, there’s a gap between the four identical rows, so they are separated into two rows of two lines. It doesn’t look terrible, right? But it’s not considered ideal.
Below (different color weft) the emboldening tabby is consistent in each repeat of the pattern. In the circumscribed squares, the areas where four identical rows occur look the same from one repeat of pattern to the next.