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.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Dense as heck

Here's that warp on the loom. I beamed it with sticks,  despite the fact I don't believe in them. Sadly,  my wee loom has a tottie wee warp beam,  about the thickness of a broom handle,  so it's really the only way. Still,  it works for short warps.  Heyho,  we have to work with what we've got.  The loom is currently beamed at 60 epi and sleyed at 112 epi.  I'll really it after the festival two samples at something like 80 epi,  which is a more natural sett for thus yarn.  I'm trying to make denim,  so am upping the epi in a bid to increase the density of the cloth. 

I'm also going to try different samples with differing tension,  to see if I can increase the prominence of the warp floats.

A part of me is wondering whether this is a useful exercise as I plan to weave a proper quantity on the big floor loom in the new year and the characteristics of the loom are very different. 

For starters,  the shed us a good deal deeper,  which I'm sure has some kind of effect on the cloth,  but the tension is also a good bit different as well. Also,  if I succeed in putting a tension brake on it,  then I shall have more consistent tension control,  which ought to help.

I'm currently running on the theory that a lower warp tension will cause greater take up in the warp and increase the prominence of warp floats in a 3/1 twill,  also that a heavier beat will help too. 

These are things that I can't really control on the table loom. So,  like I say,  I'm not convinced that these samples will truly reflect what the big loom will churn out.  I've got to do something in the meantime though and it'll at least give me a rough idea. So there's that.

The coloured samples are from the last warp and are 2/20's cotton set at 42, 56 and 70 epi

Saturday, 22 November 2014

New cotton arrived today.

This arrived today from Devere Yarns. 1.5 Kilos of 2/20's combed cotton and 1.5 Kilos of 2/40's.

Well packaged, each cone of 250g labelled properly and arrived in good time.

This is my first warp in 2/40's cotton of 396 ends. I'm going to make samples with this to determine the correct sett I need to make reasonable denim. After that, a larger warp with 4 solid colours, trying different twill variations and wefts.

In other news, I shall soon be getting my big counterbalance loom down from up north, now that I've got somewhere to put it. Then I can get some serious weaving done. It'll be awesome.