Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The 100 scarf project

Hi there.

I know i haven't had much of substance to say recently, but i haven't been idle. Oh no.

You've seen the green and white scarves from a previous post maybe, and perhaps you've also seen in my last post a tri-colour scarf shot on the loom from a curious angle. I was originally going to call that series of scarves "Accidentally Irish" because i didn't realise till the warp was on the raddle that it was basically an irish tri-colour, and thus something you can't wear or sell in certain parts of Northern Ireland or the Central Belt if you're an excessively careful sort like me.

Now, I am developing with this a scarf that can be woven inexpensively. In the first warp i left 5 inches between scarves for twisted fringes. And that's all well and good, and terribly nice, but it took me ages to twist the fringes up for finishing. So i scrapped twisted fringes in the name of efficiency. In the second, Accidentally Irish, warp I decided to leave half an inch between scarves, separating them with a warp stick from the table loom. I then washed the entire warp together, and then cut them apart, as the finishing process (60 degree wash and 30 minute tumble dry in the laundrette with the rest of my washing) binds the fibres together so well that they'll never unravel. This worked very well

This way i got an extra scarf out of the warp. 7 instead of 6. Nice. It takes me the best part of a day to make and beam the warp, although i'm pretty sure i'm doing something wrong in the beaming process, and although i am currently incapable of vocalizing my thoughts on this issue, i think i know what it is, and i think i'll get it nailed next time. It doesn't take much longer to actually weave the warp up.

This is the longest warp i can get out of my warping board when it's put together. Obviously, the next thing is to make a longer warp. Presumably, by taking the warping board apart and nailing each end to the wall at a greater distance from one another. Another method may be sectional warping, but that's just fraught with difficulties.

Now, that's great, and all fairly obvious if the aim is to make very nice scarves with very good selvedges that show off my skill as a weaver. But that's not the aim at all. The aim is to make very nice scarves with nice, reasonable prices that show off my skill as a sensible weaver for a mass market. Thus, the idea is to make wider warps. Each scarf is 400 ends wide. I have 1000 heddles. Therefore i can only make 2 scarf width warps. my loom is wide enough to take a 1200 end warp at least, but i don't have enough heddles. curse. I have been in touch with Lunds of Bingley, and they don't make heddles anymore (it's them that made the frames for my loom, back in the 70's)

Even so, it shouldn't take much longer to warp an 850 end warp than a 400 end warp, and so i can weave twice as many scarves in only a little longer time. So, call that 14 scarves in 3 days, to be generous with time. That's not a bad rate really, as far as i'm concerned. Working on the basis that whatever i make, i'll eventually sell, then spending all this money on wool (at £10 a kilo, each scarf costs £1.10 in wool, with loom wastage taken into account) and all this time on weaving is probably the best investment i could concievably make these days. And i have so far managed to sell almost everything i've made. It just comes in fits and spurts.

Here's the math

3 days work = £150 (i used to work for £25 a day as a labourer, so i'm being generous here)
14 scarves worth of wool = £15 (1 scarf worth of wool is accounted for as loom wastage)
Laundrette fees = £8

Total price of manufacture = £173

Minimum price for each scarf = £12.35

Getting there, getting there. My aim is to develop a range of scarves, and associated working practices, that allow me to sell them for £10-15 to the public and £5 to shops and suchlike.

With a 3-scarf warp of that length i can make 21 scarves in just under 4 days. It's not bad, but it's not good enough.

The aim now is to develop the ability to produce 100 scarves in 6 days. To do this i will need much longer warps. I believe this is possible, at least with the loom i'm using now, which is a very nice loom and makes me happy.

Here is the math

100 scarves of wool = £102
50 hours work @ £6/hr = £300
Total Price of manufacture = £402

minimum price for each scarf = £4.02

I could concievably sell for £3 or less and still make it worth my while. This being based upon that fact that one can live quite comfortably on £80 a week without recourse to benefits.

Mind you, everything that's made has to be sold. And that's something i don't know anything about: selling.

I have no illusions however, and i shall persevere. I will make a living out of this.



Susan Johnson said...

The scope of your project is breathtaking--I love your math, but what about a percentage for time that disappears due to the unforeseen difficulty ? I'm about 76 rugs behind on my own rug-a-day project, which makes me suggest caution

humblebumble said...

yeah, i know. but it's not a binding commitment or anything. i just think it's a good general rule to know how much can be produced in x amount of time, for the purposes of being able to state your productive capacity should anyone (god forbid) require a large amount of whatever it is one produces

i have my dreams and fantasies, i must admit.

it's an aspiration really. it's not something i fully expect to actually achieve on a regular basis, but i'm sure it's possible.

i just put a two-scarf-wide warp on the loom and have finally got round to sleying it. but i had a really awful day of it warping the thing up and the back stick broke and i had to use a lease-stick to make do instead and there was much cursing and grumbling. so i guess that's what you're on about.

i hate warping up. it's a complete and utter chore and i almost resent it. i don't want to have to do it more than once a week.

never mind though. all the scarves i weave are an investment. safer than money in the bank, or even the mattress

Susan said...

I hate warping, too. You have nothing at all to lose if you weave the scarves, even if you don't make it all the way to 100. But I hope you do. It's a great project idea.

Aside from that, are you against the idea of weaving fewer things, but charging more for them? Assuming that you're unlikely to outweave China or Indian weavers. And you can still make your nice profit.

humblebumble said...


wow. this is my third attempt to reply to your post without flying into a long-winded polemic against global capitalism.

yeah. that kinda strikes right at the heart of everything that i think is wrong with the system of globalised production. and at the i have to leave it because this blog if supposed to be about my weaving, and not my politics. it's really important to me that the two remain seperate.

i just love weaving, that's all there is to it, before i had weaving i had no reason to do anything at all, and was completely committed to being a spanner in the works. the kind of person that organises street protests just to cause traffic jams. literally. but now i've got weaving, and this whole glorious future of free and happy economic production opens out before me.

i don't want to be a worker for the capitalist system, i want to be a worker for my system. and my system is democratic and sustainable and has respect for the earth and the workers and the future of mankind and every nation that shares the surface of the earth.

so that's it really. i love weaving. i's a weaver. the chinese can be doing all the horrible monolithic weaving just now if they want. fair enough, more power to them. but when the rising cost of international haulage makes that unprofitable, all those poor workers will be out on their arses, and who's going to pick up the slack when it comes to producing bedsheets, and industrial fabric? well, someone's gonna have to do it. someone that;s situated closer to the markets they're supplying, that's who.

consider this ye westen weavers, when globalisation runs it's course, you're gonna be right busy.

humblebumble said...

that's the best i can do. ho hum

hope i haven't alienated anybody

Trapunto said...

Not remotely alienated. I can't believe I didn't comment on this post. It left me reeling, is probably why. Or I read it in my cups and didn't want to risk saying something pat. I'm in awe. The thing that surprised me most was how little you intend to charge. Although I have heard different places that if you really want to move a lot of stuff, the way to do it is to find something small to make that you can price really low. People who want to buy that lovely $300 shawl will console themselves with potholders in droves. I think you're right; you've got a good chance of solvency if you can really bear to part with your scarves for so little.

I'm not being jokey when I say you have a noble goal. It's inspiring to see someone on the brink of launching out like this.

(I'd always hoped to be the boulder they have to build the road around, rather than the spanner in the works. Too hard on the spanner!)

humblebumble said...

aye, but the boulder always get's smashed into wee bits. and the spanner's made of metal and perhaps lives to fight another day or something.

i think that's what you'd call stretching a metaphor to breaking point.

as it goes, i used to be one of those people living in the trees they intended to build the road through, so i totally get it like

as it goes, i've almost finished a 10 or 12 (should be 14, but i wasted a lot of warp pissing about with different bordering methods) scarf warp. i haven't got that much done this week as i fell off the wagon on saturday and have been feeling a bit ill since.

i have a plan for making a basket weave warp, with 2 ends in a heddle, and thus for now cancelling out my need for 1000 more heddles that i have to make myself. if i do that then i can fit a 1400 end warp on the loom and that'll make a 4-scarf wide warp i think. alternatively, i can attempt double weave and make a 2000 end plain weave warp that'll get 5 or 6 scarves on it. my brain is boggling trying to figure out the math for double weave.

i think i might just try an ickle wickle warp for that first time though, in case something goes terribly wrong

as it goes, i actually feel kinda guilty asking for a lot for my work, especially as i would never pay more than £40 for a pair of shoes, let alone a scarf. that's just me though. there's someone round here who charges over £100 (say, like, $160) for a loose-weave scarf. and the fibre is absolutely lovely and soft, but it's almost an entire weeks wages. or, put it another way, 3 weeks rent. or good food for for 2 months. more power to her like, but i doubt she's selling much

my best success would have been those £5 rugs i was making during the edinburgh festival the other year, except i kept getting rained off.

humblebumble said...

what's "in my cups" mean?

does it mean drunk?

Trapunto said...

Mmm... yeah. It's one of those antique euphemisms. But more like tipsy. I'm thinking drunk has different connotations in American English. The way I use it, drunk is not when you are leaving silly comments on blogs, it's when you're having trouble typing.

She probably wouldn't sell much from a stall on the street, but I do think there's a market. The rich will pay for the handmadeness and the pretty colors without really understanding whether it is labor-intensive handmadeness or quick-and-easy handmadeness or even good work or bad. It's the one thing they can't get at a high-end boutique.

humblebumble said...

aah, tipsy.

here's the scale, from a typical modern british person. by which i mean i drink a lot more than is healthy by anybodies standard

tipsy = slightly silly. one can exist in this state permanently without seriously impairing your functionality

drunk = bad typing, can't drive, burst out laughing at things that aren't really funny. start fights with strangers

steaming drunk = falling over, passing out in the park. not realizing you've been in a very serious fight until you wake up in casualty/jail the next morning.

there's many words for "drunk" in this country, and i guess that's a serious indictment of the state of the nation. the eskimos have many words for snow, and the scots have many words for "drunk"