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


Big Beastie

The gallery pictures in Kirsten Glasbrook’s book “Tapestry Weaving” (available from Amazon and all good bookshops) and the picture of her large tapestry loom inspired me to dream up designs of my own for large tapestries, for which I would need a large loom. Without intending to buy one immediately (this was August 2012 and I had only just started weaving) I began a little research into such looms and how much they would cost. In the process I came across a website called The Loom Exchange which deals in second-hand looms and other equipment as well as books, so out of interest I took a look.

I found an advert for a large Glimakra Regina loom for sale not very far from where I live and arranged to go to see it. To cut a long story short, it was immaculate. I paid a deposit and we went home to arrange transportation. My husband offered to pay the rest for my birthday at the end of the month. We went back a few days later with eldest son and van to fetch it home.

Glimakra Regina TapestryLoomThe loom was warped up with some six inches or so of weaving on it and I decided that it would be good if we could transport it with the warp in tact so that I had something to practice on, the warp would not be wasted and, most of all I could study it properly before needing to warp it up myself. I must add here that the instruction leaflet with the loom was all in German, a language I do not speak! I tried to find a translation to download from the internet but failed miserably. (Later a friend did a rough translation for me).

We took loads of photos as hubby and son dismantled the loom to make sure we could put it back together properly, brought it home and immediately, while it was fresh in their minds, they reassembled it in a spare bedroom – it filled the room! It measures 73 ins wide by 42 ins deep by 76 ins high. We then realized what a large room it had been in when we saw it, size can be deceptive! As you can see I couldn’t get it all in the photgraph and it soon earned the nickname Big Beastie.

It is a two shaft loom, which means the alternate warps can be moved backwards and forwards for ease of weaving, but I had great difficulty in getting these set up properly and also getting the warp tension correct after reassembling the loom. I spent many hours fiddling with it and doing little bits of weaving practice. It was to be some time before I actually wove anything on it.

The gentleman who sold me the loom was disposing of his late wife’s weaving equipment and he kindly gave me a copy of Nancy Harvey’s book, also called “Tapestry Weaving” and subtitled “A Comprehensive Study Guide”.  Nancy Harvey is an American  tapestry weaver and this book is an ideal one to move onto after working through Kirsten Glasbrook’s book.  The book is available from Amazon but seems to be priced rather highly (at least for the UK market) so maybe I was very lucky to be given it.

In this book Nancy talks you through two sampler projects as well as detailing many other techniques and providing ‘cartoons’ for further projects. I worked both samplers, although I had to slightly redesign the first one to fit my small weaving frame. Here is a picture of the one I didn’t alter. This was woven on a sett of 6 epi (those of you who have read my previous posts will know this means ‘ends per inch’) and again in a variety of knitting yarns from stock. Here it is framed and ready to hang on the wall.

Purple Sampler

The Nail Frame Loom

Nail Frame LoomHere is the nail frame loom which my husband finally made for me in the spring of last year (2012), warped up and ready to use. It measures 2 ft (60 cm) by 3 ft 6 ins (105 cm) and has nails along the top and bottom  which you  wind the warp thread round. These are set at half-inch intervals, staggered in a zig-zag pattern so that you can warp is at either 4 or, using the warping yarn double, 8 epi (ends per inch).

The most difficult part of warping is keeping the tension even and firm. I was so concerned about this the first time I warped it that I actually pulled it too tight (even bending one or two of the nails!), which caused a few problems when weaving. I have learnt my lesson and do not now pull it so tight. I have come to the conclusion that the actual tension of the warp is down to individual preference, so long as it is tight enough to weave on, and not something to get too stressed about.

The loom has no means of support and can be a bit cumbersome to use. I find it best to stand it on a stool and lean it against the back of an armchair. Then I sit on an adjustable stool to work so that I can raise myself up gradually as I progress up the weaving. I think the next project to involve my husband with is the design of some sort of stand for it.

Original Black and Wite SamplerI thought you might also like to see a picture of the sampler that started it all off so I have scanned this in from my ex-library book. You may like to compare it with my own version which I will post later.

I didn’t actually start to weave this straight away. While my husband was making the loom I read and re-read the instructions for each section of the sampler and found that it wasn’t as straight forward as I had first thought, some areas and techniques did not seem to be fully explained in the text. Considering that the sampler only occupied one chapter of a book about various types of weaving this is not really surprising but I decided I needed to  know more about the techniques involved and have a bit of practice before I attempted such a major enterprise so I bought another book and another loom…


The Beginning

It all began with a book, “Weaving and Spinning”, first published by Marshall Cavendish in 1975 as part of “The Encyclopedia of Crafts” and which I bought from a Library sale some 20 or so years ago. It has chapters on various types of weaving, including tapestry as well as on spinning. At the time we were living in Kent and I was learning to spin. My husband used the instructions and diagram in the section on spinning to make me a couple of drop spindles.

Triangle SamplerI noted the section on Tapestry Weaving, which illustrated a lovely black and white sampler measuring approx 28 x 16 inches, together with instructions for making a ‘nail frame loom’ to weave it on, but at the time it all seemed too difficult.

Several years later, having moved to Staffordshire, where we now live, I took out the book again and thought I would like to have a go at the sampler so my husband offered to make the loom.

Orange CircleI decided to have a little practice while I was waiting so I took out my daughter’s old ‘Spears’ children’s loom. I used crochet cotton for the warp and some 4ply crepe knitting yarn for the weft and did a couple of small weavings to try out weaving shapes (see photos). My daughter and I also took a trip up to “Fibrecrafts” at Ambleside in the UK’s Lake District to buy the warping yarn and the wool needed for the project. (Incidentally “Fibrecrafts”  was later taken over by George Weil and is no longer there.)

I waited…and waited…the loom never materialized!