Monday, 29 October 2012

Warp is Weft, sometimes

 I've had to abandon my last three weeks work because it was chaotic. Frankly, there was no direction to the whole thing. I didn't have the foggiest clue what I was doing, it was going nowhere and it took me far too long to realise that.


The upshot is that I have to start from scratch and now do 4 weeks work in 1 week. This is called a quick turnaround I believe. People in real jobs do it all the time, it's normal. So, no worries right?

I'm not worried, I've got a can of beer and two paracetemol inside me, how can I be worried?
 Previously, you see me weaving with sticks, which is a true thing because it is what it is. I am attempting to create rigidity in the horizontal direction. And succeeding, though it's not very stable, because one could quite easily pull those wee coffee-stirrer sticks (which I stole from Subway) out and the thing would fall apart. Never mind, when I do it big scale they shall be held together by steel cable and rivets. Oh yes.

The yellow bits are an old warp from years ago. In fact, the right hand warp is also an old warp from years ago. Like 5 years ago or something. Maybe not that long, but they've been sitting about pissing me off by being unweaveable crap for ages, so sod it. Into the weft you go.

Also, tried using yet another old warp from the ancient times before college as weft. This time it can be seen doubling round the back before going back in, so it sits on the back in a kinda loop. I think I could use this technique to wrap braids (i know, they're not braids, sue me for false advertising, knew ya wouldn't) around other things, like legs, or sticks, or metal poles, or telephone pylons. I like the idea of wrapping braids around legs, but i doubt I could get anyone to stand still for long enough.

Aaaaaanyway. I also have trend research to back this all up. Well, not this specifically, this is just me pissing about with random materials i found in my house at the weekend because I was at a loose end after finishing tidying up. But rather to back up the proper work I will be doing tomorrow when I get back into college.

Got pallettes and everything, shamelessly ripped straight out of a trend book, call it my own and run with it. It's the done thing I think. Plagiarism. Heyho, it makes life a little easier.

The truth of the matter is I need to make things easier for myself. I've been living in a state of permanent crisis for the last three months and it's fucking exhausting. Simply because I'm coming up to the end of my degree and my future is in serious doubt. My options seem limitless and it's been causing me incredible stress.

I hate change.

In my personal life at least.

I've been in this house for two years and I really like it. I'm not particularly fond of the town, but I've been around the block enough times to know that the grass is not greener on the other side. Enough of chaos and uncertainty. I have a house, and I can make a living, that is enough for now. Food in my belly and a roof over my head are precious things and rare enough in this world and I won't do anything to risk that. If I can avoid changing things I will. I have had a serious post-college possibility suggested to me and I like it. It's a real living doing something I want to do and getting properly paid, so I'm going to act as if that's the thing that's going to happen and live my life on that basis. It will make everything in my head a lot more peaceful. In the meantime I need to get a good mark for my whole degree thing so I can do that thing I mentioned but didn't talk about just then.

Knowing there's a future out there makes everything else so much easier.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Piled Fleece

 So, this is kinda good fun.

I bought two raw fleeces from Tweedside Jacobs, who have a herd of Jacobs and Gotland sheepies over in Newtown St Boswells (I think, nearby anyway)

Nice people, nice wool.

So this is my first wee test of a fleece-staple pile technique I'm trying out.

I was intrigued at the idea of making a tufted cloak fabric, as is occassionally described in saga and ancient law codes of scandinavia. Apparently they had individual staples of fleece knotted into the cloth.
Now I've done pile before, so I figure it's much of a muchness. I am using a normal pile knot, using two warp ends on one side and two on the other. Here I am knotting in the stripes. For one sequence I put the pile in one stripe, then in the other. I count two ends in from the edge of the stripe, then I take the next 4 ends, seperate them and anchor the staple there. Then once finished knotting that row, do two picks and move two threads along until you get to the other side of the stripe.

I also made a wee triangle, but i didn't take a picture of that and it's not exactly well defined anyway, so never mind. I like this technique. I am liking the ideas of Heavyness and Warmth right now. I want to make large, heavy, comforting throws. It's a Good Idea

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Troublesome Texel Loom

So, this is the Texel loom I am using this month. I used one of these last year and it seemed to work. Mostly. Except when it didn't.

Sometimes it works fine, which suggests that the mechanism is perfectly capable and has no faults. It can work fine for hundreds of picks. And then sometimes it just stops. Or sometimes it selects the wrong shafts. It's still difficult to know if it's a mechanical fault as I don't fully understand the lifting mechanism and it's difficult to get somebody to sit there doing false weaving while I examine each moving part in detail.

However, I suspect it could potentially be a problem with the computer that directs it. Not sure how to diagnose that though.

So yeah. For some reason this damn interface isn't letting me insert text next to or between my images. Ridiculous. Anyway, you can see how the computer connects to the loom itself. It appears to take feedback from the loom in the form of digital inputs from those two microswitches you see there, which will tell whether the shed is open or closed, depending on which pedal is pressed down.

It should feed digital highs and lows directly to the circuit board accordingly, which cause the transistors to switch power to the solenoids. The solenoids should then select the appropriate shafts.

In theory, but in practice things are going wrong. I don't know why, so I should try to find out whether the problem is at the computer end or the loom end. If it's at the computer end, I have a solution. If it's at the loom end I don't. Yet

Hodden Grey an' a' that



While researching Viking Textiles I have uncovered mention of a fabric named Hodden, which isn't viking, but which I was lead to in my research of information regarding the Viking Wadmal (trade cloth).

I quote the Mighty Wiki:

"Hodden or wadmel is a coarse kind of cloth made of undyed wool, formerly much worn by the peasantry of Scotland. It was usually made on small hand-looms by the peasants themselves. Grey hodden was made by mixing black and white fleeces together in the proportion of one to twelve when weaving. The origin of the word is unknown.
 So, this is interesting isn't it?

It raises a lot of questions, firstly, is this cloth an inherited tradition from the Norsemen? If so, was it's status as a trading good continued, or did it become a rough word to describe home-spun rough textiles worn by the poor?

Anyway, enough of that. I ask you to look at the above picture of Ben Affleck.

Now, we can all agree that he looks proper bad-ass on the left with the whole 70's repressed-mountain-man look. But observer the rightwards pictorial representation.

My first thought upon seeing this: "love that suit"

That lovely fabric, which is dark without being uniform, which has flecks of white running through it, could easily by the cultural inheritor of Hodden. Is this a case of a common cloth being adopted by the ruling classes? Don't you think that this soft blending of shades in a cloth is attempting to copy mixed-fibre cloths that were previously considered cheap and worn by the lower orders of society?

Isn't this an interesting subject? Could it be that Hodden, previously being the uniform of the working masses of society, has evolved to the stage that, though it's cultural inheritor (the cheap working suit) is commonly worn and made of uniform and high-quality materials, the upper echelons of modern capitalist society are more likely to wear a fabric that more closely copies the qualities of irregularity found in traditional cloth. Could this be an attempt to distinguish one's status by indicating through your costume that you can afford cloth made of unusual and, by their look (subjective, i know), handmade yarns (irregularity is often mistaken for handmade, regularity often mistaken for machine made)?

Interesting thought.

Anyway, I was looking at it all, took a break and found myself on a random website about movies and stuff and saw this picture.

I would ask you to consider denim, in this context.

Consider also, the idea that I as a person on a low income in this society, have two clothing items that I am careful of, one of which I wear regularly.

1: My Kilt
2: my Levis

I would suggest, when talking about my Levis, that what was once a very rough item of working wear for miners in the west during the period of american westwards expansion (wild west, whatever) has become a standard signifier of uniform belonging to the group of working men and women in our society (i say "our society" bearing in mind that most of my visitors are from US, UK and Europe and the general english speaking world). Look at how uncomfortable some politicians look when wearing jeans in public occasions. They're putting on an act, by wearing so-called casual wear in a formal occassion (press-conference/etc)

I, on the other hand, wear my Levis to interviews. They are the best pair of trousers I have, and they look bloody good. It's actually surprisingly difficult to get proper dark indigo jeans these days, everything has the bullshit "worn" look.

I could go on, but I won't. Just think:


Standard Peasant Cloth = High Status Luxury Item


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

What my front room looks like just now and a grisly poem I found in a book

 Well, I'm going to be a little self-indulgent. I again rearranged the room the other day and I'm still quite happy with it. Though I still think the room could do with a little red.

In this pic we see the Dryad TallBoy, who is currently unwarped and merely being used to hang tablet bands and unwoven warps on. And the ottoman with a shaggy rug on it, and the laundry basket. I don't know what the laundry basket is doing there. That is not where the laundry basket lives, this crime shall not go unpunished.
 Think I've finally figured out what to do with this so-called coffee table. Coffee table my hairy behind, it's nothing but an oversized obstacle when it's lain down upon the ground. When stood up on end it's a very nice set of shelves, just perfect for piling up yarns you don't have space for in your massive box of yarn you'll never get round to using (we've all got one, you know it's true) as well as random unwoven warps from the past and a giant basket of giant knitting needles and my wee boxy of leather and fabric tools and associated sharp things.
That tablecloth was given to me by a friend from Syria, he got his brother to send it over. Just when all the trouble was only beginning.

I haven't heard from him since he went back. I don't have his email address, and if I did have it, I wouldn't know what to say because I'd be scared about getting him in trouble. Even if he says he's a government supporter. I hope he's OK. I hope the people of Turkey don't let their government escalate the war. I hope Turkey and the DisUnitedKingdom and the US and the Russians and the Chinese stop interfering and pouring fuel on the fire. Awful awful bloody business.
Finally, the area between the couches and the defunct fireplace. With spinning wheel and a borrowed Maru-Dai and some beer and chocolate and a teatowel.

I hope to eventually get a compact computer system working as a media centre there and bring the wee screen back out of the cupboard so I can pretend like I've got a telly again. I don't actually want a telly, what I do want is to use youtube with a remote control, which is entirely doable, but you need a spare working computer. I have a Raspberry Pi in the mail, which is a tiny wee computer that can do video and all that jazz. I have serious projects waiting for it but while I'm busy with all this college and stuff I think I'll just use it as a media centre. I can probably fit the amp in the alcove while I'm at it and mount the speakers somewhere.

What you can't see here is the mantelpiece which is the final refuge of all the occassionally or daily used items which have no other place to be. I should put a small table and a coat standin the hallway (very grand name for it) so more of this crap has a real place to be.

I don't feel like I've got much else to say. I'm making viking costume. I'm also going to make my idea of what a suit would look like if it evolved from viking costume. I wonder how possible it is to do this without being unduly influenced by one's idea of what a suit should be.

Maybe "suit" is the wrong word to use. Formal Walking Wear may be a better term, as you can imagine a man in suit and overcoat and top hat and walking stick.

All that jazz. I still feel like there's something missing from the whole project. I really feel like I should be representative of the women and slave classes of society while I'm at it, but I don't know if I really have the time to make that many costumes, especially if I'm weaving all the cloth myself.

Can you believe I actually read in the preamble to a viking history book recently that the author felt that archaeologists were concentrating too much on the daily life of the normal (read: overwhelming majority who are responsible for all technological and social progress in the face of bitter resistance from their rulers) people and that the warlords and kings had been neglected. Well, BOO HOO. Far too much attention is lavished on the exquisitely draped bully boys, tyrants and rapists of yesteryear. We should celebrate how little sway they hold over us now and continue the struggle to suppress the baser instincts of savage men in our society.

Now that I've got that wee rant out of the way, check this out. I think I found this in "The Raven Banner: A History of Viking Caithness". It's a dirge sung by 12 weaving Valkyries. The story is that, in 1014, Sigurd the Stout, Earl of Orkney fought a battle with Brian Boru, King of Ireland having been requested to by the Earl of Ulster who appears to have been a manipulative stirrer. During this battle he died, with his Raven Banner clutched to his chest.

The Raven Banner was woven for him as a magical gift that would assure victory whenever it was carried into battle. However, it also carried a curse, and any man who carried it would be slain. Eventually none of his men would touch it and he was told to carry his own cursed rag. He picked it up, put it under his tunic and during the battle was killed by a spear that pierced him and the flag both.

This happened on Good Friday. While these events were taking place in Ireland, a Nordic poet in Olrig in Caithness saw a vision of 12 Valkyries riding a chariot into a nearby hillside. He went to see what had occured and found there was a doorway into the side of the hill, so he went and looked in and he saw the Valkyries weaving on a bloody warp of gore.This was the song they sung:

Blood rains from cloudy web on the broad loom of slaughter.
The web of man, grey as armour, is now woven. 
The Valkyries will cross it with a crimson weft

The warp is made of human entrails. 
Human heads are used as weights. 
The heddle rods are blood-wet spears. 
The shafts are iron-bound, and arrows are the shuttles. 
With swords we shall weave this web of battle.

The Valkyries go weaving with drawn swords, 
Hild and Hjorthrimul, Sangrid and Svipul. 
Spears will shatter. Shields will splinter. 
Swords will gnaw like wolves through armour.

Let us now wind the web of war 
which the young King once waged. 
Let us advance and wade through the ranks, 
where friends of ours are exchanging blows.

Let us now wind the web of war 
and then follow the king to battle.
Gunn and Gondul can see there 
the blood-splattered shields that guarded the King.

Let us now wind the web of war 
where the warrior’s banners are forging forward. 
Let his life not be taken. 
Only the Valkyries can choose the slain.

Lands will be ruled by new people who once inhabited outlying headlands. 
We pronounce a great King destined to die. 
Now an Earl is felled by spears.

The men of Ireland will suffer a grief that will never grow old in the minds of men. 
The web is now woven and the battlefield reddened. 
The news of disaster will spread through lands.

It is horrible now to look around, as blood-red cloud darkens the sky. 
The heavens are stained with the blood of men, as the Valkyries sing their song. 
We sang well victory songs for the young king. Hail to our singing!
Let him who listens to our Valkyrie song learn it well and tell it to others. 
Let us ride our horses hard on bare backs, with swords unsheathed, away from here.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Doubleface card weaving is actually considerably simpler than it looks, by a good long measure. The basic principle is that you warp your deck up in two colours, with one colour in 2 adjacent holes and the other colour in the opposite holes.

Say it's white and black. You then set your pack with all of the white facing towards you and al the black facing away.

Now, to make a white-face cloth, you turn the whole pack forward for two turns. the white will now be facing away from you. To continue making plain white you then turn the whole deck backwards for two turns (for clarity, 90 degree turns)

Now, if you want to make some black come up on the surface, you take the cards you want to be weaving black and slide them forward, to make a second pack above the first.

Now, for clarity, when you're weaving white, what will happen is you'll first turn the white cards once so that all the white threads are on top. then turn them once more so the white threads end on the opposite side.

In order to create two colours, you turn the other pack in the opposite direction.

Say that you start with all white towards you, and you are weaving white with the front pack and black with the back pack. In this instance you will then turn the front pack forwards and the back pack backwards, for two turns. One both packs of cards have been turned twice, they will now be again colour-aligned in the same way as they were in the first place. You can now either continue, add more cards to the black pack, or take some cards back down to the white deck.

To make lettering and knotwork and so on is hereby reasonably simple, provided you work from graph paper. I have some graph paper printed from that is set up with the boxes longer than they are wide. each box represent a full 2-pick 180' turn of both packs. I simply move a ruler up to the next row after each 2 picks, and slide the cards up and down as necessary.

It's of course a time-consuming process, but the results are very satisfying. Also, I've found it's best when tucking the weft to leave a little bit out the side before card turning, then tucking it in before pressing the fell back. if you tuck after, then the weft is compressed and you have to pull it hard to take it in, which causes it to stretch out. Then the band just gets narrower and narrower and the selvedge threads end up getting way too tight. Only figured this out myself the other day. Of course, I was using lurex with an elastane ply in it, which doesn't help cause there's nothing elastane likes better than recovering from stretch ;-)

Also, you're better weaving this stuff on a fixed loom. I've also started using a comb behind the cards to keep each card's ends seperated. I'm actually using a bit of an industrial comb that must have been salvaged from a knotting setup at some point, but you can use a normal comb of some kind, and if it's pushing too wide, just turn it diagonal a wee bitty.

You can weave it back-strap but I've gone off that as it's next to impossible to create even patterns due to the difficulty in maintaining an even tension across the band. I'm sure you've got an inkle sitting about somewhere. If i'm weaving long bands I simply wrap the excess warp around the final peg several times and secure it with a half hitch. Do the same with the finished cloth. When you want to advance the warp, simply turn the wound warp forward the required amount and pick up the slack by doing the same with the cloth.

I have so far been using the whole pack in the S orientation, but I'm told you're better of orientating the cards S,Z,S,Z which apparently allows for smoother diagonal lines. Even so, I like the results I'm getting so far.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Possible Viking Cloth

 Potential use of secondary dying to create checked patterns? Could be used to create patterning without extra cost.

 Tiny wee bitty red. Expensive stuff, but doesn't it add the cheer, no?

 Put a tiny wee bitty red next to a larger area of green and it brings it right up. Something to do with the biology of the eye and the way it perceives red and green. I think it uses the same bits of the eye for both.