Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Problem Warps, and Other Sorrows

In a comment on the previous post, Leigh said "And I thought only novice weavers like myself had problems like this. I'm not sure if it's comforting to know that professional weavers also have these problems, or discouraging that I'll probably never stop experiencing it."

To which I can only reply that the problems never go away, you just get better and quicker at solving them. Murphy's Law guarantees there will always be knots and breaks. You'll get so you don't let them get to you - it's just part of the process, not the end of the universe.

I used to just dread to have broken ends, or knots that needed to be repaired, or a warp that was mis-sleyed and needed to be fixed before proceeding with weaving. Now, it's just another ho-hum.

I keep a stash of film canisters that I weight with washers. I wrap the replacement end around the canister, thread it appropriately through heddle and reed, pin it to the woven web, and then drop the canister off the back beam of the loom such that the snap-on canister lid holds the replacement end at an appropriate altitude. I can see when I've woven enough that the canister has risen to the level of the beam, and take a little break from throwing the shuttle to walk around to the back and let the canister back down to just clear of the floor.

Side note: I took a film canister to my local hardware store and looked for the largest washer that would fit into the canister, with the smallest possible hole in it (looking for maximum mass in the smallest package). The hardware guy asked what I wanted 100 washers for. I tried to explain, but his expression got blanker and blanker. Nowadays, when I go on a shopping expedition like that, when they ask why I want whatever-it-is, I just say "You don't want to know." At that particular hardware store, when the guys see me come in the door they just become invisible. Abracadabra, they're gone.

For most warps, it takes 4 or 5 washers per canister to get the right tension on the replacement end (maybe 6 if it's a selvedge end). If there are lots of knots or breaks, when I run out of canisters and washers, I raid DH's workshop. He's a wood worker and all-around handy repair person, so there are lots of things in the workshop that make good temporary "accessories."

If I'm weaving a run of scarves or shawls or placemats or napkins, at the dividing point between items, I'll bring the replaced end back up to the web and cut out the temporary replacement. I find that if I tie the two together, it's very quick to just pull it through and weight it off the front beam with the same film canister until I've woven an inch or two of the new item.

When I was learning to weave, my teacher told me that her own teacher had a unique method of getting students accustomed to repairs of this kind. She'd carry a pair of tiny scissors in her pocket, and would cruise around the room and arbitrarily snip a warp end while the student was weaving. Sounds a bit cruel, yes, but my teacher says it worked. She got used to making repairs early in her weaving life. However, I have to admit my teacher didn't repeat the process with her students!


Peg said...

I never thought of weighting off the front of the loom that way! Great idea.
I use washers, too, but use a shoelace to join the needed number and tie them on to a little knitting bobbin around which I've wound the broken warp yarn. Sometimes I tie a bit of some extra yarn to the warp yarn to make sure it is long enough to last.

beryl said...

Some warps are horrific and you wonder what you were thinking when you decided to use the yarn as warp. However, I do find that I'm less prone to throw a temper tantrum these days than when I need to repair a broken thread.

But, I think I might have killed a teacher that deliberately cut one of my warp threads in the beginning years:-)

Abby Franquemont said...

I love your teacher's story! For demonstration purposes, I sometimes introduce a problem to show the solution, but I've never had the nerve to introduce it to someone else in a teaching setting; I just don't think most students here and now would accept that sort of teaching method. Kind of a shame though, because it would be terribly effective.

My own teachers made me live with my mistakes, which was also a pretty effective way of learning not to make them -- it doesn't take finishing a project with a horribly-tied string heddle very many times before you conclude being able to do that well is extremely important, or very many times working with a warp of uneven tension before you vow to never let that happen again and develop a very good eye and feel for it happening! But even so, you learn that you can work with flaws and problems, and how to do so, and I think that's incredibly valuable.