August 31, 2012

one hundred, sixtieth skein

Made another bulky low-twist skein of handspun Heinz 57 wool.

The yarn is already on the språng frame and worked into a fair bit of cloth.

August 30, 2012

Single Mitt in Språng

This språng mitt doesn't work well.  It's elbow length and that's weird to begin with.  The double twist interlinking section over the forearm (top of photo) skews strongly and the fabric there is insubstantial.  The mitt took both sections of the sprang because the cloth was narrow and it's unlikely I could make more cloth to match exactly for a second mitt.  The loops at the start of the fabric are ungainly.  The fabric won't conform at the wrist, much the way fallen tights wrinkle around ankles.

The humbug handspun looks better as cloth than it did as yarn.  The single twist interlinking over the hand gives a soft warm fabric.  When folded back and doubled, the fabric gets even warmer.  The stretch makes it comfortable to wear.

I think I could make a better mitt with språng than this.

August 29, 2012

Bottom's Name in Midsummer Night's Dream

According to Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare, regarding Shakespeare's character Bottom in Midsummer Night's Dream, "one of the numerous meanings of 'bottom' is a 'skein of thread.'"  Thus the bard gets, with the donkey jokes, a twofer of a pun.

August 28, 2012

May Need to Switch Wool Breeds for Better Results in Språng

I probably need to switch the type of wool breeds I use for yarn in the språng fabric I am making.  The grey piece I showed you is Blue Face Leicester, and BFL strands stick to each other.  This is a problem when trying to force the twists down to the bottom of the warp.

The bottom part of the cloth turned out to be four inches longer than the top, roughly twenty-five percent longer, and I had to spend time adjusting its twists which led to adjusting the top as well to match the newly compacted twists in the bottom.  This is a chore I would rather avoid.

The lengths are even now and I've worked twist into about as much of the warp as I can manage.  Time to decide whether to finish it as a sample piece or to seam it into some wearable fingerless mitts.  Friends and family have been agitating for something real and usable to come out of my sample pieces.

The sample piece of språng with the diamond pattern of holes gets the best response from people seeing the assortment I've build up.

I have a couple of down breed wool skeins of handspun on hand that might go into the next warp I make.  I can't imagine that yarn would stick together.

August 27, 2012

The Movement of a Strand in Single-twist Språng Interlinking and Double-twist

Did this practice piece to show the movement of a strand in single-twist språng interlinking and in double-twist.  A strand stays pretty much vertical in single twist: it zig-zags slightly back and forth.  Once you start double twist, it inches toward the side, then reverses course.  You can see two strands in burgundy on the grey background.  They run parallel down from the top, then cross and diverge.

I had a good time at the event on the weekend, as you might expect I might around people at leisure who are interested in doing arcane fibre arts.  Gave away a spindle to a beginner.  Spun a little.  Showed the belt tool to a woodworker and talked about mechanical considerations in card weaving, such as how a weaver-tensioned setup gives a firm warp-faced weave, potential drawbacks of wooden tablets, that sort of thing.  Distributed fibre festival brochures.  Showed samples of språng, discussed it, and demonstrated it.  Got to see someone's språng water bottle cover.  Tried to work a diamond pattern in språng and forgot how.  Fell back on simple 1/1 interlinking, as you see.  Left a mistake at the top which moved the two burgundy threads wider apart, a result I think makes its appearance more interesting.

August 25, 2012

Have Språng Frame, Will Travel

I'm throwing a bunch of tools and supplies in a pile in anticipation of taking them to an event where I'm assured there will be people likely to want to try their hands at some tablet weaving, språng, or drop spindle handspinning.

Am going to have to sort through the pile to make sure all the essentials are there.  It's simple, portable stuff but one missing piece could scupper my ability to warp, weave, or work sprang.

August 24, 2012

Changing the World One Spindle at a Time

Our last handspinners guild meeting was held in a more public place than usual and we had some walk-ins.  I'd brought a couple of inexpensive drop spindles with spare wool.  I was able to give one away to someone who'd never spun yarn before, and told my friends that I was one up on my plan to change the world.  They think it's slow progress.

August 23, 2012

Card-woven Belt in 70s Colours

I warped this belt in January in order to show a couple of guilds a setup for weaver-tensioned card weaving (tablet weaving) and let the guild members try if they liked.

The cotton yarn was generously donated by another member.  The colour contrast made it easy to see where individual threads were positioned and how they moved from shed to counter shed.  It was also good to work from four cones of yarn because that allowed me to use the quick method of continuous warping, which I prefer.

A few people tried weaving a small amount.  Then the warp sat on the cards and cloth-beam-belt-tool thing for months while I nurtured hopes that someone else would want to learn.  Then an occasion came up requiring a belt.  In one day, I undid the weaving back to the first two inches (which I now wish I'd taken out as well because the weft is too loose there) and I started again, finishing the whole length.  Strike one more unfinished object off the list.  Hurray for deadlines that prompt action.

I regret that I didn't stagger the position of the cards to produce a chequered pattern.  The harsh stripes make me think of coral snakes.

I am happy about the looped end, it's the first time I've tried a wrapped loop after Collingwood's The Techniques of Tablet Weaving.  A woven loop is more elegant and tidy but cuts the warp length in half and I needed a long warp for a belt.

The feel of card-woven cloth is pleasantly substantial.  Here you can see the side, how thick the belt is. The photo is taken at a reversal line, where I had to stop turning the cards forward by quarter turns and start turning them backward because too much twist had build up in the warp.  Card weaving is warp-twined.  Each place you see a blotch of a thick stripe in the photo above, that's a reversal line.  I reversed wherever the yarn dictated without any sort of plan and I didn't bother finessing the selvedges by reversing the outside cards at a different spot.

August 22, 2012

2/2 Diamond Pattern on 1/1 Språng Background

Once I learned how to do all-over 2/2 holes, it was a short step to making a pattern of holes on a background of 1/1 språng interlinking.  Nice, eh?  From the books and their charted patterns of lacy holes like this, I take it that the structure of språng interlinking cloth lends itself to designs worked in diagonals.  Zig-zags.  Double-headed eagles.  I'm not doing double-headed eagles.

I will point out an error on this piece, I didn't compact the lower half enough and it's longer than the top half.

Can you see how the pattern's centre row bulges a little in width?  It's the row with three holes across it, where the dot is in the middle of the diamond.  Holes stretch the fabric out, so their placement can act as garment shaping.  That's a way to make the cloth wider or narrower to fit the form underneath.

There are other means of garment shaping in språng.  For a couple, I want to get some yarn in a contrasting colour in order to show clearly what the yarn does.

This piece of cloth was made with my one hundred, fifty-ninth skein which went directly from spindle to språng frame without touching a niddy noddy or swift.

August 21, 2012

Sprang Cloth with 2/2 Holes Throughout

Collingwood's The Techniques of Sprang says that the simplest way to understand how holes are made in 2/2 språng interlinking is to make them all the way across.  So I did.

Two threads are passed over two threads, rather than one over one (1/1).  That's not all there is to it, there's a four row sequence I had to follow.  Didn't throw me off, not like knitting feather and fan did, probably because within one row the motion is the same all the way across.  I made one error about a third of the way down from the top.

The fabric stretches sideways considerably, more than the multiple twist interlinking I did last time.

I like the cloth's texture.  I wonder what it would look like in fine yarn.

August 20, 2012

Glut of Events

According to my calendar, there is a fibre event on each of the next seven, no, scratch that, nine Saturdays.  Some days have more than one option.  Plus, there are a few Sundays with fibre events.  And I just went to one this past weekend.

Some are just for fibre folk and other events are out in public.

This much choice is great and kind of staggering.

August 18, 2012

A Loom Up and Running

Once upon a time there was a second-hand rigid heddle loom in a friend's attic.  I came over, bringing bits and pieces that were needed like a shuttle and a sleying hook.  Together we put a warp on the loom and got her and her children weaving.

First we watched Ashford's online video about direct warping.  After that, everyone knew what the next step was and could pitch in with confidence.

August 17, 2012

Språng Multiple Twist Interlinking

For this experiment in språng structure, I followed Collingwood's directions for multiple twist interlinking on page 102 of The Techniques of Sprang.

The openings in the cloth are held open by various amounts of multiple twist in the interlinking, some one, some two, three, or four.

The photo shows the start of the cloth at the top.  I worked downward.  In the cloth at the top I compacted the rows but at the end, near the meeting line, the rows are looser.  I wish I'd been more consistent.  The uncompacted rows skew less and look better.

The fabric stretches sideways a lot.  As you can see, the fabric looks more like mesh than plain interlinking does.

I tried this type of språng because I thought the diagram in the book looked pretty.  You start with one twist, then as you work across the row the next interlinking has two and so on building up to four, then you reduce the number of twists in each interlinking, then build up again.  Then the next row you offset this; you start with three twists, then decrease the number of twists in each interlinking, then increase.  One row's height waxes while the other wanes, with an effect like waves.  That's the theory, the actuality is rather blurred.  Could be my fault for using a somewhat fuzzy yarn.  Didn't help that for one row I wasn't thinking and did interlinking with four twists all the way across.

Multiple twist interlinking is part of the Bronze Age hair-net shown in the book.  I think looking at the plate that while different rows have different amounts of twist in each interlinking, within a row the number of twists is the same.  That would be more simple to work.  The handspun wool yarn must be a firm sort as the twists appear well defined.

August 16, 2012

"It really works to have it local"

I watched an online interview expecting to be annoyed because the topic was 3D printing's potential to change the future of textile production.  I spin yarn by hand to make cloth, I like natural fibres not synthetics, and I'm interested in cloth structures composed of individual strands orderly arranged, not fused layers.  But I liked what New York-based designer Mary Huang said about local production:
I think that there is a lot going on right now that seems to say that for certain products it works really well to manufacture in the U.S.  We actually get other products made in the garment district and I know other designers do as well because for things that are smaller quantity, higher quality, and more interesting designs, it really works to have it local.  You get faster iterations.  You have better quality control.  You already have the margins to be able to do it locally, so why not.
–Mary Huang of Continuum Fashion interviewed in "Printing Fashion: Fashion label blends tech and couture," CBCNews Business, The Lang & O'Leary Exchange, August 10, 2012,
I also liked Huang's bespoke approach.  As I looked further into the Kickstarter campaign, the main website, and the blog, I could see that she and Jenna Fizel, also of Continuum, work with ways to customize clothes to an individual, following the wants and needs of the final owner as well as the inspiration of the designer and the limits of the clothing construction methods.  This is an approach that is shared, I think, with handspinners making yarn and cloth.  No one that I know makes standard repeatable yardage in handspun the way the ancient or medieval world did; rather, handspinners experiment with fibres to get a custom product.

August 14, 2012

A Sprang Image on the Visual Arts Data Service

Found an online image of a Coptic wool bag in språng at the Visual Arts Data Service website,  Going by Collingwood's book, the two-toned patterned area is probably worked in double cloth, creating patterns in colour where the strands swap places between the two layers.  The red edges are probably worked in a single layer of cloth.

The piece is more intact than the piece Collingwood included in his book's plates, and it's in colour.  Collingwood's book is in black and white.

August 13, 2012


A little over a dozen linen handkerchiefs, newly made.

They're not for show or gift-giving or living a twee life, they are for me to use as a durable and practical alternative to tissues.  (I also have this ambition to have linen in my life as much as possible.  I like the feel of linen much better than disposable tissues.)

I cut the store-bought cloth into pieces a couple of years ago and at the time I sewed up a dozen and a half.  That stack has seen continual use.  The amount was almost enough to last between washdays whenever I was afflicted with a cold and more than enough otherwise.  It will be nice now to have ample.

The hankies are simple, no embroidery or monograms.  The cloth is plain-weave.  The size is about the same as a tissue.

I enjoyed sewing the seams by hand over several evenings.  It's satisfying to have the project off the to-do list.  If I had to do it over I would have bought a thicker weight of linen, rather than cloth described as fine handkerchief linen.

I read somewhere that in the old days linen cloth was pressed to make it stain-resistant.  I didn't test stain-resistance, but I tried using my handkerchiefs both ironed and un-ironed to see how they felt.  I like the look of them better ironed but they feel more absorbent when un-ironed.

August 09, 2012

Z Twist Språng Interlinking with S and Z spun handspun

in progress
I set up the warp with handspun yarn, alternating between a yarn spun S and plied Z and a yarn spun Z and plied S.  Then I worked simple Z interlinking.

The fabric curled to a significant degree, almost as much as with handspun all of one type.  However, the appearance of the surface is different, pebbly not smooth.  Side by side one yarn has twist added while the next has twist removed and so they heave out of plane.  The top and bottom sections resemble each other more closely in the look of the yarn's twist than the previous experiment's sections did.

right after being taken off the frame

Here you see the fabric folded in two, one layer behind the other, and stretched.

For both kinds of handspun the yarn twist is a regular twist, not a low twist, and the fabric has a harsh feel, in contrast to the piece I worked in low-twist handspun.  There is comparatively little halo to the wool.

August 08, 2012

Plain Weave vs Pattern Weave

Here's a quote from Mary Atwater's American Hand-weaving (New York: Macmillan, 1928) that surprised me:
It is far more difficult to weave a satisfactory plain-weave fabric than it is to make a piece in simple pattern weaving.  For the sake of logical sequence the plain weave is considered here, but the beginner is advised to pass on to the chapter on the four-harness overshot weave.  In plain weaving slight variations in beat show as very obvious streaks, especially if warp and weft differ in color and an even beat comes only with practise. (p. 109)
I suppose it's similar to what they say about how difficult it is to construct twentieth-century modern architecture and furniture compared to Georgian, Victorian, and such because there is no ornamentation, there is nowhere to hide irregularities and misalignment.

Good thing I didn't read this passage before I made my plain-weave vest, I might have doubted the wisdom of plain-weave for my first woven cloth.

August 07, 2012

"I Had No Idea How Much Emotion I Could Feel Over These Things"

"Rescuing a Dying Art"

Jennifer Gaudet of Jennifer's Hamam, interviewed by Kimberley Strathearn about rescuing looms in Turkey and re-employing skilled production weavers.  

According to the Jennifer's Hamam website, their Turkish bath towels can be expected to last twenty years, much longer than factory-made towels, because the cloth is constructed using shuttles.  I find it interesting when people point out a link between structure and functional performance.

In the article "Towels Fit for a Sultan," Today's Zaman, December 8, 2010,, Gaudet talks about the weavers, their equipment and how they work.  She says, "It takes two to six days to weave one big 1.8 kilogram towel and one to three weeks to weave a bathrobe."

You can find videos of the weavers in action through the Jennifer's Hamam Facebook page.  They use fly shuttles, their weaving is rapid and noisy with a rhythm.  The looms are similar to the looms in the video of Harris tweed weavers I linked to in a previous post.

August 06, 2012

Monday, Wash Day

A few freshly ironed linen shirts.  Love the red one in front, both the colour and the heavy fabric.  It's a choice thrift store find, and the modest price was discounted fifty percent which is even better.  I mean to cut it up and sew something.  Probably a project bag to hold knitting or a spindle and wool.  I could make a pinny, a nicer sort than the crumpled red school pinnies we had to put on in P.E. to tell one sports team from another, but I have no use for one.

I checked the red top against an asymmetrical top in drab worn linen I picked up secondhand a while back on hopes of recreating it someday in a nicer fabric.  I can get enough fabric from the red top for the main body but not enough for bias binding.

At another thrift store, I got a jacket that's the same label and same fabric as the dress I cut up and made into a project bag this Spring.  I want to alter the jacket a little and wear it.  For the few dollars I paid, I can chance ruining the jacket's structure and fabric by cutting out the synthetic fabric lining and unpicking the patch pockets.  The plastic buttons have to go.  I will replace them with shell buttons I salvaged a couple of years ago from a thrift shop dress.  The shell buttons have a glossy good side that looks wrong against the rustic fabric but the dull, mottled reverse goes well and as a bonus will amuse me since the colouring is similar to a tortie cat.

I bought for myself a men's linen camp shirt from J.Crew and I took off the pockets.  The cloth is chequered and the pockets have bellows pleats.  The folds mean that the pattern does not line up and the pockets stand out.  Did I mention the pockets are chest pockets?  Chest pockets that draw attention to themselves, yes.  And now on my shirt they are gone.  A small detail can make all the difference to wearability.  The beautiful linen fabric closed up in the wash leaving no trace of stitch marks.  I will swap out the plastic buttons soon for some thick, white shell buttons from my button box.

When I washed the dishes wearing the camp shirt and the blue linen apron I sewed in June, I looked almost together.  

August 04, 2012

Z Twist Språng Interlinking with Loosely-spun Handspun

It is true, språng fabric wants to twist when you work all Z twist interlinking.  The top photo is taken squarely facing the frame on which the threads are stretched, and you can see how the cloth twists.  Once taken off the frame, it really twisted.

You can see from the ends of yarn hanging loose that the yarn was spun Z and plied S, which means that the språng Z twist interlinking on the top section slants in the opposite direction of the yarn.  In contrast, the bottom section shows in reverse whatever I do at the top and there the interlinking slants in an S direction.  The twist of the interlinking fabric affects the strands of yarn, either undoing the yarn's twist or making it tighter.  The fabric reflects this: I can see the twist in the yarn in the fabric's bottom section but it is hardly visible in the surface at the top.  I like the look of the bottom section, that is, the section interlinked in the same direction as the yarn was plied.

The fabric is nice to the touch.  As with my first two samples, it's fun to pull the cloth sideways to see the interlinking.  Though the fabric corkscrews when held in the air, it lies flat when I fold it at the meeting line in the middle and set it on a table.  Again this is a confirmation of what Collingwood has written.  Nice to have a tangible example at hand.  The sample is good for showing språng to people who haven't read the book and may never do so.  The structure of this piece is easier to grasp than the last two.  There are more variations to try out and prove.

The next experiment will be with the two yarns I spun, one spun Z and plied S and the other spun S (widdershins) and plied Z.  I know I will arrange them on the frame AABB, but I am trying to decide whether to work all Z twist interlinking again or whether to work the cloth's right side with Z interlinking and the left side S.  I think that would make the top and bottom sections exactly the same.  Working all Z twist or all S twist would not.  When you think about one portion of språng cloth turning out a little differently than the other, this has design implications for a piece of cloth to be worn.  Since I intend to make myself something wearable with språng, I must mull this over.  I can take very strong likes and dislikes to things, and I like to get what I like.  Don't we all!  It would be good to find a technical solution, a means to get the effect I like without completely discarding half the cloth.

I had another look at Blue Swan's pullover.  She says on the page that the pullover is warm to wear.  She worked so many holes in the interlinking, it's nice that it's warm even so.  Plain interlinking has holes enough in my opinion.  This is probably why I worked my interlinking so tightly, to minimize the holes.  Tight interlinking is supposed to worsen the corkscrew effect.

What else did I learn?  The amount of tension on the frame doesn't seem to matter much.  Not like weaving where fabric goes flooey when the tension is loose.

I had crochet cotton on the frame last week and couldn't get anywhere with it.

August 03, 2012

The Way Thrift Stores are Jammed

A quote from Brian Ulrich, of VCU, discussing his book Is This a Great Place or What in an interview on With Good Reason, July 28, 2012,
     On the cover of the book there's a photograph of a young woman who was working in a thrift store in Seattle, Washington and she's really kind of totally surrounded by a giant pile of used donation clothes. To me what was amazing about this girl was that she was maddona-like.  She had this ownership of herself in that space even though she was totally compressed by this wall of colour and garments and stuff.
     This is this environment that we all exist in.  The thrift chapter of the book moved into the idea of "as much as we buy things, those things have to go somewhere."  There has to be a repository for those things.  The middle class casts off all of their used things, they end up in this space, the guilt is absolved but the mountain of stuff is tremendous and profound, and a real problem that people have to deal with all the time...
     [On the influence of Hurricane Katrina] Like a lot of people I was completely transfixed by the aftermath which was poor people and low-income people trapped in New Orleans.  It made me think of the fabulous photographs that were done in the 1930s of the Depression-era America.  It seemed a lot more interesting to potentially just photograph that level of "here's what the environment is" in the thrift store.
     Interviewer Sarah McConnell: And what did you find the environment to be?
     Ulrich: Consumer goods were being manufactured so fast that they had to be spit out of the machine, and this was where they landed.  They literally would be piled to the ceiling, spilling out of the back of stores.  These places were swimming in consumer goods.  Most of the time we like to think, oh, that's a great thing: they're going to be able to sell all this stuff and use that money for a charitable organization or otherwise.  But it was a real problem.  They couldn't get enough people to process this stuff.  And to lay that all on a lower economic class was big and heavy and again problematic.
     It seemed to me that thrift is an allegory for a culture that sets in place a remedy for a system so that the people in the thrift stores and the thrift stores themselves are the ones to solve these last-level problems of "well, we make too much stuff.  You deal with it."  Upper and middle-class levels get to reap all the rewards and benefits of new products; lower income gets to basically glean from what's left behind.
     McConnell: And the way that thrift stores are jammed, they can't even glean because they can't even process what they see.
     Ulrich: No, they can't.  It's incredibly...yeah.
I heartily enjoy buying from thrift shops and other resellers and I appreciate having places to consign or pass along my useable discards.  But, yeah.

I was out for a walk the other weekend and came across a yard sale that was mostly clothes.  I could tell from eavesdropping that it was in effect an estate sale, the mother had died.  There were conservative men's suits on hangers laid over boxes; I could imagine a widow keeping them, deferring the task of processing the things.  Pieces of women's clothing were hung on makeshift rods and heaped on tables and blankets.  The adult daughter apologized to me for the disarray.  So much stuff.  Underpinnings and everything.  Much of it was nice, Sunday-go-to-meeting level.  I'm sure each purchase seemed like a good idea at the time.

The second half of the broadcast is an interview with Scott Nelson about his book A Nation of Deadbeats.  I couldn't pick out any one quote, it was just riveting with facts I had never heard of.  It's snippets of stories about economic history centring on the consequences of debt and gluts of goods on the market, such as used British military coats after the Napoleonic war.

August 02, 2012

one hundred, fifty-sixth skein

Two squishy ounces of Heinz 57 wool top, spun with lower twist than usual.  I spun on my spindle then spun back for a count of four before winding on.  I want a low-twist yarn to see how it works in sprang cloth, whether the bias cloth twists out of shape less than with high-twist yarn as Collingwood says in his book The Techniques of Sprang.

This is a pleasantly tactile skein compared to the last two I did in the same wool with the regular amount of twist.  I've got it in my hand and am resting my chin on it.  (It smells more of sheep than your usual wool top.  Pfffhah!)

I spun the yarn while listening to an old BBC film production of Shakespeare's Coriolanus.  I finished spinning when the hero's mother kneels to him in petition a second time in Act V, just before she disowns him and he caves.  Charming, absolutely charming.  Plying my yarn took longer, I didn't keep track of the time.

August 01, 2012

Henry V: Dye Room

Henry V: Dye Room | Behind the Scenes | Stratford Shakespeare Festival

This 2012 video is from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada and shows a gambeson being over-dyed.

I love it when you can see the logo on the dyer's apron: Lee Valley Tools.  

For a total co-incidence, a costume designer talks about over-dyeing military outfits from a different production of Henry V, in an article by Eliza Kessler, "Henry IV and Henry V: Q&A with the costume designer" BBC, July 5, 2012,  She also talks about research and practical considerations.