Up until last week, the longest warp I had put on any of my looms had been 10 yds. For a long time, I wound on shorter warps in order to practice, practice, practice and because most of my projects have been with handspun yarn. The last 5 or so warps had been spotless, 'perfect' as perfect gets. I was ready for a long, 'pro' style warp.....yeah right!
I am participating in a napkin exchange weaving project with our guild MMAWWG. Each weaver is to weave enough napkins to exchange with 7 other weavers in each group. The 'owner' provides the weft and we all have the same warp yarn. At the end we will each have 8 napkins woven by 8 different weavers including oneself in the same color, different threading and treading. I am in two groups because I want 16 napkins. For 16 napkins we need about 12 yds but I figured I was going to put on 16 yds for 20 napkins/samples, etc.
I set to wind the warp, I wanted the measure the warp two ends at a time. I wound half the warp yarn with the electric cone winder and the other half was left on the original cone....this was the first mistake. Different cones, different 'winding style' caused the yarn to unwind at different rates. By the end of the first bout I knew I had problems, but I had this in the past and did not find much of a problem, it would even out while beaming. ( It did NOT). I pressed on.
Took the warp to the loom and got things set up to beam on. I use a raddle and ¼” dowels as warp separators in this particular loom.
It was then when I encountered the second and third problems;
In the past, I had tied on the first warp thread and the last warp thread of a bout to one another to make it a continuous loop......I read/heard this somewhere. It had worked, it did cause a few tangles as the threads got themselves straight, but it was manageable for the most part. This time x that x 16 yds, and 600 ends and I had at least 5 crosses across the warp. Big mess of tangles! There was no uncrossing the offending ends because the 'other' end was at the END of the 16 yds. No worries, I carefully untangled each cross and pressed on.
I quickly ran out of dowels so I continued packing with blind slats. That was a BIG mistake! The slats collapsed at the edges and the warp was beamed on with significant tension differences. Problem is, I did not notice this until after I had started weaving!
I lashed on, and started weaving, a few loose threads easily fixed with pins. But the warp kept getting tighter and tighter on the left side of the loom.....finished the two first napkins and then disaster struck. I could NOT get a close to even tension more and more threads came loose. It was then that I stood at the back of the loom and saw the collapsed slats.
This was Friday night; I wrote a request for help to one of my weaving lists and went to bed. Four am Saturday morning: I had to fix this one way or another!
I started trying to wind the warp on the cloth beam; the tension was so uneven there was no way. In 5 inch width increments, I chained off the warp trying to get the threads as even and untangled as possible. To beam, this time I used construction grade paper, a huge roll that cost less than half of what the slats and dowels had to start with. It 'only' took me 4 hours to re-beam the whole thing. In the middle of the process, I noticed the cloth beam was not quite at level.... come to find out one of the screws holding the back cross post had stripped off the wood and the whole loom was off square! Toothpicks and wood glue did the trick. It is holding on now but I suspect it will not for much longer. I have put in a request to the loom manufacturer for a more definite solution. If this fails, I will have to re-beam yet again on another loom and re-thread! So let’s hope it holds up for the remaining napkins. The first napkin of the second try, wove up in no time at all, no tension problems and the pattern draft looks very promising. I can’t wait to see them wet finished. I have the rest of the tie-ups and treading for the rest. I will change tie-up and treading in groups of 4.
So I learned:
1. Cotton has NO elasticity
2. Problems will compound and become nightmares in longer warps
3. Always double/triple check your loom and make sure things are doing what you think they are doing or at least what they are supposed to be doing.
4. ANY cross in the warp WILL become a mess. When you read or hear something make sure you THINK about it. Does it really make sense?
Why do I keep doing this if it causes so many problems? I love the finished product. Because creating textiles is a process that involves magic and creativity. Because I know that if I keep doing it I will learn from my mistakes and one day, hopefully not too many warps away, I will become a proficient at it and make fewer mistakes. As I read weaving books and understand structure, I become more enchanted with the process. I want to weave more, I want to create and design.
When I first stated, I struggled with terminology, I struggled because I could not visualize the descriptions and therefore could not reproduce them at ease. Today, I understand the process, I know when there is a problem. For the most part, can figure out how to fix the problems. I will re-read some of the classic books, Rug weaving by Peter Collingwood the first on the list.