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Monday, June 30, 2008

Coping with Low Humidity

I always thought San Jose (especially the East side) was dry. Well, Atascadero is even dryer. We've had a run of hot weather (high pressure zone that just won't move out to the east) and the humidity has been in the 5% to 10% range. Really! I know you folks in the Eastern States would think 30% was a dry day. Ha! Also, the temperature has been running in the 102 to 107 (F) range, which at 5% humidity isn't too painful as long as you don't have to be outdoors in it. Aren't I glad I'm not a professional landscape gardener!

Normally, I like dry rather than humid. But just go ahead, try to weave with fine silk in 5% humidity! Even though I have a ground wire from the reed to the electrical ground on one of the pieces of loom electronics, every time I swing the beater, the warp just hums with static. If I put my hand or arm next to the warp, the hairs stand on end! The weft thread gathers more and more static with each shot, until it clings to the beater bottom bar, or the breast beam, or the temple clips, or whatever it finds anywhere near its path. Because of the clinginess, more thread pulls out of the shuttle than required, and loops form everywhere, in and out of the shed.

Here's my strategy: I put a vaporizer (the steam kind) under the loom, right by my feet. That makes the heat more noticeable, but does raise the ambient humidity a bit. Not enough to keep the static under control, though. So there's also a spray bottle filled with water within hand's reach. Every 20-30 picks, I mist the fell and the warp in front of the reed lightly. This reduces the static, but still not enough. So the only remaining trick up my sleeve is to wet down the weft yarn on the pirn, which makes the yarn a little stickier so it doesn't just spring off the pirn into loose loops at the least provocation, but the side effect is that it changes the tension on the shuttle, so I have to keep adjusting that to account for more or less moisture on the pirn. Which slows down the weaving, but not as much as backing up to pull out loops that formed at the selvedges or in the body of the weaving....

The saving grace of this new house is that it's insulated to a fare-thee-well. The walls are 2x6 construction, with much more insulation stuffed in the walls and ceilings than can be crammed into 2x4 construction (which is the standard). Luckily, the garage is also insulated the same way, so Mike's wood workshop keeps cool, too. The warmest room in the house is the study, because with 2 or 3 computers and a flock of printers/scanners/faxes/whatever, there's a lot of excess heat being generated. We've got ceiling fans in the study, the family room, and the bedroom, and they've been running nonstop. So far, we haven't had to turn on the AC yet, except once when the studio (on the upper, hotter floor) got too warm for comfort. But even on the hottest days, the ground floor is staying below 80 F.

Anyway, if any of you have suggestions for controlling static electricity, do let me know! Just don't suggest spray-on fabric softener on the warp - I tried that, and the reed I was using at the time didn't take kindly to the chemicals in it. So, anything but that, please!

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

What about using Static Guard aerosol spray? I don't believe that this is fabric softener. There was very recent mention of this on the weave-tech site in answer to someone inquiring about special silk handling tips, it might have even come from Laura Fry, but can't remember for sure.

Anonymous said...

Update regarding WeaveTech info...it was a suggestion provided by Diane Kowalski, something she uses at times when winding fine silk warps to make them behave. You can find her comments in digest #2943.

Happy Weaving! Barbara in Massachusetts

Leigh said...

When I kept angora rabbits, I had a terrible time with static electricity and their fluff. To control it, I would rub both them and the grooming comb down with dryer sheets. While spinning, I would spin the fiber out of hand, holding it in another dyer sheet to control static. I'm not sure if it would work for your warp though.

Anonymous said...

and on the other coast we are sitting here in 98% humidity and my latest merino tencel undulating twill scaves have been hanging to dry for 36 hours and the ends are still damp!!!!

Peg in South Carolina said...

5% humidity is terrible for human beings. I can't remember what percentage of our body is water but it is very high. Can you imagine the effect this low humidity is having on your own skin? On your nasal passages (and lungs)? On your eyes? Ideal humidity levels are 35% to 50%. Definitely you need humidifiers and not just for the silk. Silk is protein. We are protein. We both need the same conditions. You are right about the vaporizers. You need humdifiers, not vaporizers. We use Venta humidifiers and are very happy with them. There are others equally as good. You might start by checking out humidifiers on Amazon.com or doing a Google search.

jackie said...

I will also suggest dryer sheets. It seems to work here (East Coast Canada) but I have to admit that I don't think that the humidity is EVER at 5%!