The Return of The Beast (Part 2)

Things are not always as easy as they seem!

The design for the cushion covers was a simple, basic design and I did not anticipate too many problems weaving it, but in fact it posed some of the same problems as my black and white sampler and the pinwheel design, with the constant changes of colour. For the semi-circular sun I found that I had to constantly change the direction of working each time I introduced another of the diagonal rays.

Then there was the diagonal lines themselves.  Warp is vertical, weft is horizontal which makes angles and curves somewhat difficult to achieve. Diagonals are fine if they are more or less at 45 degrees but in this design some of the diagonals are much closer to the vertical. To create the angle, the weaving has to progress in steps. The steeper the diagonal the bigger the steps, the bigger the steps the more obvious they become! With steps of one or two rows they barely show but three or more rows and you begin to notice them. Another problem with bigger steps is that you then have larger vertical slits. These can be prevented by various techniques for interlocking the colour changes, but this again  can often be noticeable and spoil the visual line. I opted to leave the slits with a view to sewing them up once the work was finished – also an acceptable technique.

However, as I said, the design was fairly basic and so work progressed quite quickly. Here is one of the completed cushion covers, as you can see the diagonals are a bit wonky here and there:

Completed Cushion Cover

While I was weaving this project we were having a conservatory/room built on the side of the house. It is a light and airy room with several windows and a conservatory style roof and is quite big, being almost the depth of the house, front to back. It was decided to move the Big Beastie loom down into the new room where it would fit nicely at one end and still leave space for seating at the other end where French Windows open onto the garden. This would also free up our spare bedroom once more for visitors! Unfortunately I do not have a picture of the loom in its new space to share with you at the moment – maybe when I share another project.

We decided to leave the cushion covers on the loom while we moved it once more, again to avoid any problems with fitting the warp. I was surprised how quickly I managed to get it set up and the tension adjusted to my liking this time – practice makes perfect, or so they say.

There was still plenty more warp left to use so when I cut the cushion covers off the loom I pulled down the warp and tied it off on the bottom beam ready for the next project. I confess that for reasons to be revealed at another time I haven’t yet made up the cushions. Also, though I have the cushion pads ready, so far have not found any suitable fabric for the backs. There are not too many fabric shops in my area and I am going to have to look further afield when I can find the time – at least that’s my excuse!

The Return of The Beast (Part 1)

In 2008 my husband and I had sailed our 33 ft yacht, Red Dawn IV, from where we keep her in Essex to the Brest Classic Boat Festival in Brittany, France, which is held every four years.  She had been accepted as a classic boat, having been designed by Maurice Griffiths, a popular designer around the 1960’s and a long time editor of Yachting Monthly magazine.  All participants are requested to produce a ‘Toile de Mer’ which must in some way represent the boat and her home port. The  Toile has to be produced on a board to a specified size. This is the design my husband came up with, the left-hand side being an outline of the boat, her class (a Barbican 33) and her designer (Maurice Griffiths). The right depicts our home port with the county coat-of-arms, and in the middle is her name over a depiction of the sun rising over the sea:

Toile de Mer

Why am I telling you this? Well, for my first project on my Big Beastie loom I planned on working a pair of cushion covers for the boat, side-by-side so that I could be sure they matched properly and based on the middle section of the Toile design. Having fiddled around with Big Beastie for some time I eventually managed to get the tension adjusted reasonably satisfactorily and decided it was time to start the project.

The first problem was finding appropriately coloured yarn. I had been gradually building up a collection of yarns suitable for weaving, buying from Ebay amongst other places, but apart from a small ball of a nice golden-yellow for the sun I had nothing else suitable. When I have a colour in mind I like to see before I buy so I scoured the local yarn shops and quite a number further afield, all to no avail; I could find nothing with the correct intensity of colour. I even bought some undyed rug wool and had a go at dyeing it myself, but even after putting it through a dye bath twice I was still not getting the required density and richness of colour and was at risk of causing the pure wool to felt!

Then I discovered Texere Yarns on the Internet. They have a vast selection of yarns, including an Axminster Rug Wool selection in a wool/nylon mix. The colours they stock do vary according to availability but I was able to get more or less the colours I had in mind from them (it is always something of a compromise). I bought a navy blue, royal blue, light blue, as well as red and orange and in August 2013 I set to work. Here you can see the work in progress, which you will recognise from the blog banner above:

Cushion Covers side-by-side

I had bought the loom already warped up with a linen warp and a sett of approximately 6 epi so this formed the basis of the weaving. The finished size of the cushions would be 50 x 30 cms.

To be continued….

(In the meantime if you would like to know more about Maurice Griffiths and the Barbican 33 check out The Eventide Owners Association website here.)

More Practice

After I had finished ‘Blue Moon’ (see previous post) I turned the wrap-round frame over to use the warp on the other side and had to decide what to do. You may remember I mentioned that, when weaving the black and white sampler I had had a bit of difficulty with this area:

Black and white sampler 1

The reason for the problem was because all the changes of colour came to a point. When using more than one colour, especially when vertical joins are involved (necessary or you end up with a slit), it is usual to have the colours travelling towards each other or away from each other in each row when weaving, but the under/over sequence must be kept correct.  When joining colours at a point it becomes necessary to use only one warp end for a new colour and the thread may need to go over or under that warp. Here lies the confusion, because if you think about it, a weft end going under just one warp in effect doesn’t really exist and so it is easy to get the under/over out of sequence and the direction of travel wrong.

I decided that I needed more practice with joining colours at a point so I ‘designed’ a triangular pattern with the colours coming to a point in the middle, then realised that what I had drawn was a well-known ‘Pinwheel’ design often used in patchwork. I am pleased to report that weaving it was considerably less traumatic than when I wove the black and white sampler as I now had a better idea of what I was doing!

I used some ‘carpet thrumbs’  (wool off-cuts from the carpet manufacturing process and hard to come by these days but ideal for weaving) that I bought in a local charity shop. Judging by the cellophane packaging they were wrapped in they had been in somebody’s wool stash for some considerable time. There  was approximately 500 grms of  each of four shades in light brown, beige, golden-yellow and white, for a very reasonable price and I had treated myself to them for Christmas. I used only three in this piece, the beige, yellow and white. Like ‘Blue Moon’, ‘Pinwheel’ measures 8 x 8 inches on a cotton warp sett of 6 epi .

Pinwheel Tapestry

A Lesson in Design

Having been invited to attend the Midland Branch Meeting of the British Tapestry Group (BTG) at the end of the Shropshire Yarns exhibition and to bring some work along I needed to get something started on my small wrap round loom. It was Autumn, leading up to Christmas so I had the brilliant idea (well I thought so) of designing something snowy or Christmassy that I could then photograph and use to produce my own Christmas cards. I also decided it would be good to have more practice at doing circles as these are quite hard. This is what I came up with:

Tapestry Trees design Nice and simple. I would colour it with cold, snowy blues, greys and whites and do a pattern around the outside of the circle in ‘pick and pick’. This is a technique where using two colours you do alternate rows in each colour; due to the under/over nature of weaving this means that the two colours always go over or under the same warp, resulting in stripes.  I bought some cotton yarn with a bit of ‘lustre’ and I warped up with the 6 epi sett I had been used to using on this frame and set to work.

All went well until I got to the trees. However I tried I could not get the steep angle of the sides to work out in any sensible way. The usual way to do verticals, or lines near to vertical, is to weave the piece sideways – I knew that, but in this case opted not too as I thought the snowy ground lines would then not work. I tried and undid, tried and undid several times until I realised it was just not going to happen. I obviously either needed a much finer warp sett or to work the design on a much larger scale, or both, to achieve the result I wanted. Neither was an option as I was running out of time and anyway, if I were to do it on my bigger nail frame loom I would not be able to take it along to the meeting.

What was I to do? Well I undid most of it, at least down to the start of the circle. I decided to stick to the colour scheme, continue with the ‘pick and pick’ around the sides and fill the circle with something else – basically making it up as I went along. It needed to be simple and quick so that I had something to show, but it didn’t need to be finished. I opted for a simple pattern of horizontal stripes and had probably just over a third finished by the time of the meeting. I finished it later by simply working the top half as a mirror image of the bottom half and, though I say it myself, I was pleased with the result, considering that is was ‘designed’ in a bit of a panic. In fact I am so pleased with the result that I use it to represent me as a weaver. You have probably already seen it as a symbol of this blog. It measures 8 x 8 inches and I call it ‘Blue Moon’.

'Blue Moon', 8" x 8"

At the meeting I met all three of the Shropshire Yarn weavers – Maralyn Hepworth, Lindsey Marshall and Pauline Fisk and also the Midlands Branch organizer Victoria Green. They were all very kind about my efforts (I also took along the mauve sampler I had worked from Nancy Harvey’s book – click here for a reminder) and a few weeks later I joined The British Tapestry Group as an Associate Member.

The design lessons I learned from this are: 1) to consider the size of the piece, the sett of the warp and the best way to weave a design before embarking on a project, after all warp is vertical and weft is horizontal so all shapes need to considered in light of this fact, and 2) that simple can be effective!

I actually still like my original design and may have another go at it (finer, larger and probably sideways) at a later date!

Links to the BTG, the Shropshire Yarns website and the individual Shropshire Yarn weavers, including Victoria Green, can be found in the sidebar blogroll.