Slay the dragon. Ride the sleigh. Sley the reed. To succeed in these challenges, you must be prepared, pay attention, and make sure you’re on the right track. Here, I’m going to focus on sleying the reed with success. (For dragon slaying and sleigh riding challenges, I won’t be of much help.) Don’t miss the new video below with tips for sleying the reed.
First, make sure you have good lighting. I have a snake arm shop light attached to the top of my loom. (See Tools Day: Loom Lighting for more about loom lighting.) I also have a smaller clip-on gooseneck LED lamp, clipped onto my loom bench, that illuminates my specific working area. With a fine-dent reed, like this metric 100/10- (~ imperial 25-) dent reed, focused lighting makes a difference. It means seeing the dents instead of guessing.
In this video, I share some tips for sleying the reed, with checkpoints to ensure success. (See Tools Day: Click Test for more about the “click test” mentioned in the video.)
I have an efficient way to handle weft color changes. It’s very simple. This is for those instances when I need to end one weft thread and start a new one. As a rule, I take care of weft tails as I go. I don’t want to come back to them later if I don’t have to. If I tuck in each weft tail at the beginning of the row, thickness from the extra wefts builds up at the selvedge, especially if I’m weaving horizontal stripes. The method I describe reduces the extra wefts, and eliminates having to tuck any tails in.
Change to the shed needed for the next color. Take the shuttle with the first color into the shed for about about 3 cm (1 1/8”), and bring the shuttle up and out through the top of the warp.
Lightly beat (tap) in the 3 cm (1 1/8”) of thread. Carefully snip off the thread close to the warp.
Weave a pick of the next color, with the end of the new thread overlapping the 3 cm (1 1/8”) of the previous color thread. Position the new thread such that the end is outside the selvedge just a hair.
Beat in the new weft and continue weaving until the next color change.
Watch this short video to see me demonstrate this method of changing the weft colors.
May your choice of weft colors give a glimpse of your best qualities.
I am adding about thirty more skeins to my yarn supply to get the colors I need for a new tapestry. At this rate, maybe I will have every single color of Borgs 6/2 Tuna and 6/1 Fårö wool on my shelves some day. That’s wishful thinking… But I do have what I need for now to make the butterflies for this special pictorial tapestry.
All these new skeins of yarn need to be wound into balls using my Swedish umbrella swift and a ball winder. In the past, I have used a manual ball winder. That means a lot of handle turning, but eventually all the yarn is wound into balls.
This time is different. I found a new time-saving and arm-saving tool. It’s an electric ball winder, made by Fiber Artist Supply Company. I put the skein on the swift, cut the ties, secure the loose end of yarn to the ball winder, and then turn it on, gradually increasing the speed. In less than two minutes, I have another beautiful ball of yarn to use for making tapestry butterflies.
I have a single skein of colorful cotton/bamboo sock yarn that a sweet friend gave to me. I’m not a knitter. What can I do with a mere 50 grams of silky-soft yarn? My 13.5” Glimåkra Emilia rigid-heddle loom is perfect for the task. When I’m at home I weave on floor looms. When I travel I like to take Emilia along.
One skein of this yarn yields just enough to make the warp for a short scarf with fringe. I am using Xie Bamboo thread for the weft, left from the huck lace shawl I wove for myself to wear to my daughter’s wedding six years ago (See Quiet Friday: Coral Shawl for a Memorable Occasion). This thinner weft gives me a loose weave, and the color blends in a way that allows the changing color of the warp to take center stage.
Now that this scarf is finished, the only thing left to do is make sure I have a new warp ready for Emilia in time for our next travel adventure.
Do not overfill your quills. It may seem efficient to load the quill as much as possible so you can weave as far as possible. Like me, you may have to learn this the hard way. A too-chubby quill that has to be coaxed through the shed takes more time and effort than winding a few extra quills. So much for efficiency.
It helps to have an idea of how far the thread on a quill will go. With this information, you can wind a few in advance without ending up with an excess of wound quills at the end of your project. I like to have the next quill ready to go when I am weaving so that I can put the new quill in my shuttle and keep weaving with very little interruption. This is especially helpful when the treadling sequence is tricky, like with the reverse twill in every other large color block on these cottolin bath towels. 3-2-1-6-5-4
How to Estimate Weaving Distance for Filled Quills
1Start a new quill, leaving a 4 – 5 cm tail on the surface of the cloth. Or, start a new quill at the beginning of a color change.
2 Weave until the quill has emptied. Leave a 4-5 cm tail on the surface of the cloth.
3 Replace the empty quill in the shuttle with a new quill and continue weaving 1 – 2 cm further.
4 Measure the distance from the first weft tail, or line of color change, to the second weft tail. Place a straight pin, in line with the first weft tail, directly under the second weft tail. Measure from the pin to the second weft tail. This is the approximate weaving distance you can expect to cover with a new quill. Notate the quill’s estimated weaving distance on your project notes for future reference.
5 Trim the weft tails close to the surface.
6 Increase accuracy by repeating the process three times, and then use the average as your quill’s estimated weaving distance.
The large color blocks on this bath towel are 14 cm long. A single full quill will weave 5 1/2 – 6 cm; therefore, I make sure I have 2 full quills, plus at least another half-filled quill before I start a new color block section. It’s nice to be able to leave my foot on the treadle while I change out quills, so I don’t lose my place.