23 May 2012

The dance continues

(Warning: this one is very geeky.)

The piece is more than 25% woven now; last night we turned the cloth beam again. Another turn and it will be time to unchain and lengthen the warp.

Draw-in is now visible and obvious, since the recently woven web is now wound over a layer of previously woven web. It's about 1" narrower at each side now. I'm not worried about this from a construction viewpoint, because I figured in a 10% draw-in when I was making calculations. But it does mean the top corners of the chiton will have a slightly trapezoidal effect. Hopefully nobody will be looking at the top edge anyway.

During this recent period when I wasn't weaving on a regular basis, something happened to my understanding of the dance. I've now hit on a sequence that is a great deal faster than the previous ones I tried. I've just about doubled my most recently clocked speed for a "there and back again" pass. Now it only takes two and a half minutes rather than five.

Here's what I'm currently doing. I wrap the left selvedge, then put the penion through the natural shed. I use the comb to loosely beat the weft into place, still on the open shed. Then I wrap the right selvedge, and here's where it gets a little tricky. With my left hand I pull and hold the sinister (rightmost) shed rod. I place the penion on the natural shelf formed by the heddles. With my right hand I take the weaving sword and draw it through the countershed, clearing any sticky yarns. Then I put the sword under my left arm, pick up the penion, and put it through the countershed. I drop the first shed rod, move to my left, and repeat the process with the second shed rod. Then I move back to the sinister edge of the warp, drawing the tip of the sword across the threads as I go as if I were using a pin beater. This helps the countershed fall back into place so the original, natural shed is clear again.

I beat in sequence from the sinister selvedge. Holding the handle of the sword in my right hand, I put the blade in the natural shed at about a 45 degree angle to the fell, with the hilt nearest the fell at the selvedge edge. Then I lever the point of the sword upward with my left hand. When the flat of the sword meets the fell, I push up gently, just until I feel the weights moving. Then I step to my left and repeat the process. It takes from four to six such movements to cross the entire warp, depending on how the weft thread lies.

You'll notice here that in both passes I am beating from the attached toward the free end of the weft. This is a trick I learned while weaving rutevev tapestries. I usually use my free hand to adjust the weft tension while I beat in this fashion. Managing the tension in this fashion helps me produce cleaner, straighter selvedges with less draw-in than any other method I've tried. Beating this way adds some walking to the process, because it means I have to cross the loom (from dexter to sinister) twice: once after passing the second weft and again after I've beaten to leave the sword at the sinister end of the loom. However, the speed I gain by not having to manipulate the sheds as much more than makes up for it.

Besides, the weavers of the Classical literature all walked up and down at their looms. Next I should work on being able to sing as I go.

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