Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Warping up with household furniture and some other things

Hi there all.

Bit of a picture heavy post the now. I've joined a group on Facebook called Weaving Hacks, which is a very nice group which does exactly what it says on the tin.

Anyhoo, I said I'd share some of the unconventional ways I make warps, so I'm going to do the indoor one the now as it's very cold outdoors so there's no way I'm going to do a "making a warp on fence posts / sticks in the ground / hammers tied to trees / sticks wedged into a dyke post while it's this cold.

Hate the cold me, totally hate it.

So, that's the craic for this post.

I'm going to start off with making paper bobbins so I can break down a large cone into separate packages.

Simple enough. Wrap a piece of paper Round a pencil, tape it and Bob's your auntie.

Then stick a pencil in a drill, put the bobbin on and wind your yarn on. Takes ages, I really miss having access to a bobbin winder. I took a couple of pictures of this but not gonna bother adding them because it's pretty straightforward.

Then knitting pins in a box plus bobbins equals a convenient way to keep your yarns in order while warping.

OK, not the best picture I could have taken, but this isn't the main thrust of the post and if I'm going to do a warping post I might as well do it properly and dedicate an entire post and a couple of videos. This is more for people who can weave but are just looking for some handy tricks.

So, onto the handy trick. I almost never use warping frames when making tablet warps, because I learned without them and am quite happy continuing that way. Warping for a loom is a different story, I'd feel very uneasy about making a nice wide loom warp without proper equipment, but maybe that's just my privileged education showing. Anyway, never mind that. Here's three pics of the warp in progress.

First, one end.

Then the other.

Finally, the whole thing, for context.

That's my parents' kitchen. Of course I made sure I had the place to myself for a couple hours first. That got me about 6 metres of warp which became about 5 metres of this.

Here's a full view of the loom.

So, that's that really. Now I'm going to talk about the loom a little because it's my baby and I like talking about it.
6 metres was really a stretch to warp on this loom. I don't believe in using warp sticks and prefer to narrow my warp as it winds on in order to avoid slop, especially as if I used warp sticks I'd be lucky to get a metre on here.

So, it went OK, not brilliantly and I had to bodge the edges inwards as I was winding, but I improved the process in the warp after this and was happier with it, though it's still not ideal. I still got tight edges from halfway through till the end but it remained weave able throughout and the finished band wasn't noticeably deformed apart from having decreased in density in the middle comparative to the edges, though I'm unsure whether that was a problem with the warping or my weft tucking, as I've always had problems with widening bands and am only now getting serious about addressing it.

Anyway, it worked but wasn't ideal do that part of the design and process must change. Watch this space, and indeed any other space in which I hang out.

Also, the cloth collection is not ideal and makes me wonder whether I even want a cloth beam at all. For TW it's not exactly necessary, but given i want thus loom to be capable of ingle and pickup weaving also for weaving slightly wider cloth I think I should keep it for now and attempt to improve it in a similar manner to the warp beam.

Anyhow, that's that. In other news I'm leaving for hopefully a new and interesting life in Greece in a couple of weeks where I can continue my weaving and loom development, now here's a picture of my dog Eris with her friend Blot. Eris is the little one.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015


Starting note. If you're a Greek weaver or a Greek speaking weaver and get bored with this rambling, please scroll to the bottom, I need your help with language.

So, things didn't quite work out as planned in Dundee, for very personal reasons. As these things tend to do. I'm sure many of you have been in a similar position before. Something very central to your life changes and the life you have just doesn't make sense anymore.

So, the upshot is, I couldn't afford to keep the flat anymore. The rent is more than I can afford, even when working at full capacity. I've been working as a delivery driver for Domino's Pizza and while it's a great deal of fun, very satisfying and my workmates were really good fun to get on with and the management was the best I've ever worked under, no matter how many hours I worked there'd be no way to make anything more than a subsistence level income with the rent.

I'd thought of several option, I though of getting a smaller flat, I thought of getting a flatmate, but none of it made sense.

Then I was lying awake in bed one night looking at the half-empty shelving unit next to me when I just thought "I should go to Athens and be with my brother".

I couldn't sleep anyway, so I just stayed up until he woke up and had a long conversation on Skype about everything that had happened. That was a couple of months ago. Since then I've been working and basically organising what you could call a tactical retreat from my life in Scotland. The difference between a tactical retreat and a rout is that rather than picking up a sleeping bag and walking out of the door with my dog leaving chaos in my wake I'm doing everything I can to make sure that I leave things in order, complete the tasks that are necessary and make arrangements for the paying down of the debts I have accumulated.

It's been a long couple of months.

Now I'm at the point where I've sold the bulk of the furniture and now have no sofas or beds and am writing this post in front of a telly perched on a computer tower while sitting on an upturned bin. I can't find the power cable for my laptop, that's why. Annoying eh.

My bed is a single duvet on top of a folded over double duvet in the corner by the heater. And it is very cold. But I'm accustomed to this kind of life. I used to be a squatter and at least here I have security.

But the more things I shed myself of the more at peace I am.

This may alarm some of you, but I have thrown out all the cloth I wove before I went to college. Every single piece. I have gotten rid of duvets, bedsheets, towels, perfectly good clothes. I have whittled my tool collection down to the bare minimum, all else going to the Dundee Makerspace. What do I need with a full set of turning chisels? With a set of tiny screwdrivers? With three different handsaws? With all the wall-plugs, with all the yarn I have accumulated.

I have thrown away that which will be of no use and gifted everything else except my bare necessities. The weaving cards I have made take no space and I use them all the time, I keep them. The Marudai braiding stand is a sacred item for reasons I won't go into, I keep that. The latest iteration of the weaving board I have designed comes apart and goes in an A4 envelope and is the foundation of a potential living, I keep that.

The little loom I learned to weave on? It's long gone, gone to another beginner weaver. The big loom I learned sectional beaming on and wove my first set of scarves (one of which I'm still wearing right now)? It's gone to the makerspace and I'm producing a video to explain to others how to get the counterbalance system properly balanced. It will be used there. Tools should be used. My sewing machine, overlocker, design table? Makerspace. The yarn, hundreds of pounds worth, Makerspace. I am only taking 5 kilos of 2/60's silk supplied by a company that I intend to use again (they have a very good pallette of pre-dyed shades). And some very fine nylon, which is excellent for practicing weaving new fonts with.

The computer is a fine tool, which I have used for designing my tablet weaving loom and a wonderful diversion if I want to spag out (a term my family use for being a couch potato, I've never heard anyone outside my family use this term) and play video games. This will stay with my sister until my living situation is secure and I can send for it.

My Ebook stays with me, I am currently reading the Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. I've read it before, but it's worth reminding oneself of the lessons of a man who made Stoicism accessible to the people. A philosopher emperor. Great guy. On you go Marky-boy.

Anyhow. You get the craic of the matter.

So that's that, away I go, after an interlude of earning money from home and earning my keep by chopping wood and walking dogs.

So, this is the request for the Greeks that I mentioned at the beginning of the post for those of you who weren't up to reading me rambling at length about my problems, solutions and philosophies.

I need Greek weaving words. These are not common words, and in English they are not common knowledge and may not be found in a dictionary and are not standardised either. The Americans and brits used different terms for the same thing sometimes, and older british weavers will use different terms from younger british weavers.

The main words I need are

Lay (shuttle race
Shaft (heald in old fashioned english, funnily enough)
Tension (maybe a different word if attached to weaving than otherwise)

It's funny, but having had communications with scandinavian weavers (you know who you are, you lovely people) there's been no problems in this regard because most of our weaving words are borrowed from them and in any case our languages are closely related.

But anyhow, if I want to make some part of my living as a loom handyman and/or weaving teacher I'm gonna need these words. If anyone can help me, I shall be in your debt and if you happen to reside in Athens I shall be more than happy to help you in any way I can as recompense. I am proficient in most aspects of handweaving, including several different warping methods. I am also roughly good with tools and have experience of modifying looms. I can tie up a counter-balance, a counter-marche. I have repaired mechanical dobbies and thouroughly understand their mechanical operation and design principles. I can tablet weave and know some braiding. I also have a basic understanding of the operations of power looms, particularly the modern type of rapier loom and am good with the kinds of software that are common in their operation.

If you can help me with the language, or know someone that does, let me know in the comments

Friday, 6 November 2015

New Loom > Old loom

This is my old tablet weaving loom. I guess calling it a loom is a bit of a stretch as it's basically a plank with a couple of bits of wood nailed to it to mount another bit of wood as a rudimentary cloth beam.

Anyhow, it served it's purpose fine and all, but I only used it the once to make some particularly intricate bands from silk. It's a bit on the bulky side, and I need more bulky crap like I need a hole in the head.

So I made a new one. I wanted to make a tablet weaving loom that was no bigger than it needed to be, that allowed one to weave a long warp, that had a spacer (helps both with combating twist and with keeping a consistent cloth width) and that most importantly could be made in pieces, shipped across the world in an A4 packet and put together without any nuts, bolts or glue.

This loom also combines the technique I've found most helpful in tablet weaving (the spreading board) with the basic technology of a handloom. One of the benefits that occured to me earlier the day of this is that if someone were to learn tablet weaving on this, without realising it they'd also be learning some of the fundamental basics of handloom weaving, making and beaming the warp, with the spreading board playing the part of a raddle.

In fact, there's really not good reason why this thing couldn't be turned into a shaft loom now I think of it. It just needs an add-on for that. Or for inkle weaving, or rigid heddle weaving, even jacquard weaving (now that would be an EXPENSIVE upgrade ;-).

But hey, the intricate patterns you can make with this setup are practically infinite anyway, so you don't really need to bother with anything else.

So this is the loom. It's made entirely out of 6mm laser-cut plyboard. It all just slots together. I've had this idea in my head for quite a while, now I've finally managed to extract it thanks to the tools at Dundee Makerspace, specifically the lasercutter. This is a bit of a rough draft like, There's a few things I'd change.

Firstly, I didn't really think through the ratchet and pawl thing properly. By the time I'd drafted all the parts it occured to me I hadn't considered where to mount or how to attach the pawl. I suspect I'll have to cut a hole for it into the main board and attach it with a narrow nail or something like that.

Also, I allowed the ratchet teeth to come to a sharp point, which means that some of the teeth have been cracking at the end as I'm using nails as pawls right now. 

The beams turn pretty well, considering they're not actually round. 

I really should have put a raised lip at the edges of the warp beam on the inside of the mount in order to bracket in the warp. If a person had a very long warp that would be an issue.

The spacer at the back is going to need something on the top to prevent the prongs from breaking. It only has 12 spacers just now, but if it had more it would get exceedingly fragile. It's also the part that takes longest to cut so it's an issue. It may make more sense to cut it from acrylic instead. It may actually make sense to cut the entire thing from acrylic, I just have to make sure I can get an appropriately tight fit.

If i did make it from acrylic it could be all sorts of funky colours.

The bit at the front is completely over-engineered and I don't think needs those wee slots at all.

The middle joining bits need to be longer and lower. The board bends slightly under tension and when you've advanced about a third of the way up the board, the joiners get in the way of your hands somewhat.

It would be helpful to be able to get the cards actually resting on the board if one wanted in order that 2-hole patterns could be made. I know you could just stick a wee book there, but that's not the point.

Also, what it really needs is a way of making the warp on the loom. I jury-rigged a rough solution but it's not acceptable in the long run. I think a couple of arms with warping posts sticking out that slot onto the sides would be nice. They could be stabilized above and below in order that they don't bend out of shape.


I kind of want to manufacture and sell these. Do you think I should do kickstarter or something?

Thursday, 20 August 2015

We're in Dundee now


Still not been posting much to the old blog recently. Things have been a bit busy. Been visiting my brother in Greece, and so much moving.

So, yeah, life's been a bit hectic eh.

So, I was staying in Galashiels and working at the uni as a technical assistant, repairing and maintaining the looms and running the power loom.

First off, at the end of last summer, I moved my tools into a farm outbuilding at a pal's place in Earlston, about a 20 minute drive away from my house. I got a little bit done there, but not that much in the grand scale of things. Then in April I decided to rent a garage unit in the same town and moved my tools there. I then found a cast-iron dobby head online and decided to buy it and get the floor loom back from up north.

The funny thing about this was that the dobby head was in the deep-south of England, which required two days of driving and added about £150 onto the (very reasonable) price of the thing. The thing came with a compressor. An absolutely ridiculous compressor, about the size of a decent-sized pig and about as heavy. At least it was on wheels. My poor wee car.

The loom itself was stored in an old church near my folks house in the northestness of Scotland, which geography buffs among you will recognise as being at the opposite end of this fragile union of ours from the South of England. So I went up there on the train a day after coming back from the south to load the loom into my father's trailer, he then drove me and it back down here to Galashiels (which is close enough to being right in the middle of the country, lengthwise).

Another thing, I hate driving in the south, it's horrible, especially around London. I mean, give a boy a break, I'm not used to the road man, I'm trying to get across this dual carriageway and who knows what lane I'm supposed to be in? If I make a mistake I end up 20 miles in the wrong direction at 10pm at night in heavy traffic. So take your hand off the hooter would you?


So, that's the loom in the borders. In the meantime, we've made the decision to move to Dundee. We'll be closer to family and we'll be in a city and I was starting to tire of the repetitive nature of my job, it was making me start to get tired of weaving in general, and we can't have that can we? So, away we go, planning our new life.

After about 2 months of flat-hunting we finally find a place and after a nerve-wracking week of waiting for forms to get processed we finally put the first month's rent down and secure the place, at which point my other half goes up to stay at her sister's place and take up her new job, she being a little more organised in the career department than I.

I'm sure I'm not supposed to end a sentence with the word "I". I don't care. Not I.

Such an individualist, me.

Anyhoo, I set to work over the following two weeks dismantling the flat, feeling something like I'm living in a particularly disorganised squat somewhere in London, albeit without the worry about getting raided by police, bailiffs or yardies.

That done, it's time for another joyful driving experience, my first time driving a van. And not just a wee transit or that, oh no, a merc sprinter. Biggest vehicle I'm allowed to drive.


I normally drive a Hyundai Getz, which pistonheads will categorize as "little".

So, I planned to get everything done in two days. What a ridiculous idea that was. I had 2 extra bodies at both ends and I still only managed to do the house over those two days. And we were all completely exhausted, none of us being accustomed to hard physical labour.

Did I mention we moved from a council flat to an unfurnished flat? Both on the 3rd floor. Of course, the new flat is a tenement so it's extra tall. Hurrah for Victorian architecture! The thing about council flats generally is that they're absolutely bare when you move in, no cooker, washing machine, nothing. So we had literally everything. I never want to lift a washing machine up 3 flights of narrow stairs again.

So, I had a day to lie about on my back panting and figure out what to do about the workshop (and the few bits and bobs left in the flat).

So I hired another van, and drove back down. This time on my own, without help at either end, cause my helpers were now working and probably sick of the sight of me and my huge pile of crap anyway.

Loaded the loom and other crap up, drove back up, slept, got up at 7 (had to get the van back for 11) and unloaded the loom at Dundee Makerspace which is to be it's new home. Got the van back to the depot with 30 minutes to spare and not a scratch and then went home and lay down for about two days.


What's to say about Dundee?

Excellent town this, that's what. I thoroughly like it. Especially when I'm not humping crap about on my shoulders. The flat is lovely, there's a nice park just up the road and a Lidl with a brilliant bakery section just round the corner. My loom is in a very nice place with a lot of techie-creative types about and they're all very curious and interested about it, which is very nice. Trying to explain it to them makes me realize how far from the basics my understanding of this technology has come, as I can't figure out how to explain the machine in basic terms to people that aren't already familiar with the craft. Especially as my teaching method so far has been "spend two years doing what you're told on this machine and then I'll explain complicated things to you", which works fine at university, but not so fine everywhere else in the world

Anyway, this town is pure jumping like, it's a hidden gem so it is. Scottish people traditionally have a pretty poor attitude to Dundee in general, but it's completely unsupported by my experience. It's full of creation and ideas and music and stuff. Also, it's really quite a little city so I reckon it's probably pretty easy to get to know everyone important in your field here in a reasonably short period of time.

I've already met a good number of really sound and solid people and expect to meet more in the months to come. I am pretty optimistic about things working out here.

So that's that. The work's been worth it already.

But there's no way I'm doing it again in any hurry at all. My shoulder is still killing me

Monday, 23 February 2015

The first really proper thing I've woven since graduation


So, this is largely Roslyn's idea. She had the idea of doing a kind of stepped-backwards grade in blocks on a dogtooth weave. As it goes, I misunderstood her and when she said dogstooth I heard herringbone, which is kinda odd, but it's still a twill I guess, so it works.

Anyhow, we talked over it all night. I say all night, I mean till 1am. We didn't literally stay up all night mucking about with pointpaper and coloured pens. That would be obsessive to the point of compulsion. We might like weaving, but not to the point you'd have to call the men in white coats.

So, anyway, this is going to be a sampler scarf. Now I made a mistake here when I was making the warp. One of the blocks is 4 ends too wide. I wove all this then Ros said "is that bit a bit bigger"? So I took the measure and it was, then I counted the ends and it had 32 instead of 28. So that's annoying. Now, this yarn is expensive stuff so I'm going to actually unpick the weft, untie the starting knots on the left hand side and resley leaving those four ends hanging. 


I should add I got the yarn from Weavers Bazaar who have an amazing range of wool yarns in various counts as well as warp cottons and some nettle kind of arty yarns. Now, the problem with having such a huge range of colours (really, just so many, if you're in the UK do go and have a look) is that there's just too much choice. What we did was we bought a shade card from them which has all their yarns in stock. But we were still a little stuck, so what we ended up doing was buying some collection packs. This is from a pink and purple collection pack. As we're largely designing with grading colours this is a really cool way for us to buy yarn. Especially as a designer, it's very useful to get a decent range of colours in small quantities.

The only gripe I have is the price, but that's just the way things go when buying from this kind of online shop. I certainly think we'll keep using them for yarn for our designing, but when we go into manufacturing mode I think we'll have to find a bulk supplier for kilogram quantities. The bulk suppliers don't generally have as much range, but I guess the thing to do is find a company with the a range that roughly fits what you're using and go with that I suppose. That'll be a challenge when it comes, but one thing at a time for the moment.


So, we'll try a bunch of different wefts on this scarf, after I fix my mistake here. That's what we're taught in college, but we also want to actually have a scarf at the end of the day so we'll no be cutting it up and mounting it or anything like that. We also want to do these scarves in different colourways, like maybe 3 or so, so we're also trying to find wefts that'll fit into all 3 colourways so the scarves can be woven side by side on the big loom, when it eventually arrives


Anyhow, that's enough for the night. Do you like my little divider lines? That's me being all professional and that. Good, eh?

Also, I dinnae ken if you all know, but I kinda have a youtube channel, not sure if I mentioned it here before. Mostly videos of tablet weaving, with explaining and stuff. And captions for the deaf and those who can't understand what I'm saying because I don't know how to talk for video well.

Check it out, over here

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

All ends accounted for.

You can't easily know how happy this picture makes me.

So I'll try to explain.

First off, what's happening? Well, when I tied the new warp on to this loom the other month, the knotting machine found a few instances where the ends in the crosses for the old and new beam didn't match up. So, doing what I've seen done before, I broke them out, knowing I could always run some new ends in from cones. 

Now though, I've managed to completely sort out the warp and managed to put every end in it's place. I checked each row of hooks individually and tied new warp ends in. Where possible, from threads hanging off the back, of which there were a few on the left hand side there. Also, on the right where the threads go up,  I ran 4 cones up, around the beam and into the heddles and reed. 

When I finally finished, I realised I had 4 free ends on the left hand side, in exactly the right colours, so I took a stick with a hook on either end, ran them down, along, and back up onto the loom.

For context, you should know that I've been trying to get all threads accounted for on this loom for over a year without success.

When I came to this loom, the selvedge drums were unloaded. They instead had rough cotton selvedge warps sitting on the floor underneath the loom and running up and around the unloaded drums. Naturally, consistent tension on the false selvedges (this is a rapier loom) was something that was impossible to maintain. Plus the selvedge cones gathered stoor and get really dirty, and made it very difficult to clean up around the bottom of the loom.

Also, for so long, I had loads of ends hanging off the back on the left hand side and other ends in the middle whose place I couldn't find. All this was exacerbated by a warp of viscose that refused to weave as much as a metre without bursting out at least 5 ends. I spent more time repairing ends than the loom spent weaving, it was truly infuriating. The warp has now been changed to 2/20's cotton, basically the same weight of yarn, but cotton is a much more agreeable yarn than the viscose we have in stock here. Now, the Viscose is fine for handweaving and knitting, but when you put it in a power loom and run it through a cross, it's just a nightmare, as it's so brittle and inflexible in comparison to cotton that it just breaks all the time. Also, it really kicks off a lot of stoor, so much so that last year I was weaving with a dust mask. I don't have that problem anymore. Used to be there'd be an inch of stoor sitting on the loom at the end of half a day's weaving, now I barely need to worry about that at all. Which is nice, as the springs underneath the heddle frame have to be cleaned of stoor when they get clogged up, and that's a real pain.

So now, I have new selvedge drums (the selvedge was also breaking a lot, but that was due to a slight misadjustment on the right hand selvedge picker, rather than anything to do with the yarn), I have a nice new warp yarn and there isn't a single yarn that isn't going somewhere useful. There's no cones on the floor, or trailing ends. Every heddle that should, has an end in it and I'm pretty damn sure there's nothing wrong with the sley, but I'd have to check to be sure. It's really difficult to tell from a cursory inspection. 

Anyhow, got my last metre of the year to weave on this thing today, so I'm gonna do that and then wind the cones for the next warp. We get our warp made outside and they require 50 cones of each colour to make the warp with. So I'd best get to it.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Folding loom part 2

It's taken me a little while to get round to this.

Finally though,  I have the space and,  in the form of the remains of a large pile if shafts we got shot of from work over the summer,  the materials. Lots of pieces of wood of uniform dimensions. Nice strong stuff too,  tasty. Also,  the drop saw makes short work of cutting the stuff down.

I drew up some plans the other night,  and built the frame and Castle today.

The castle has been built in such a way that I expect to be able to be able to swap different shedding systems in and out.

The castle is probably a little tall just now,  but I thought better bigger than smaller.

The first shedding mechanism I'll install will be counterbalance,  then maybe a countermarche and perhaps eventually a jack mechanism,  though I'll need a router to do that,  so it may have to wait for some time.

Also,  there are lessons to be learned in the process.  Even in the building of the frame.  But certainly in the building of the shedding mechanisms.

Anyhow,  two pictures of it as it is,  in folded and open conditions. I also need to dig out a track for the locking arms to travel on.

Once this is all done and tested,  i'll have learned enough to try again with bought wood.