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.)
Wind very narrow fabric strips on quills and put them in a boat shuttle. It’s efficient. It’s faster to wind a quill than to load fabric on a ski shuttle. Plus, I like the advantage of sending a boat shuttle across rather than a ski shuttle. This rag rug on the drawloom has fabric strips that are only one centimeter (~3/8”) wide, instead of the usual two-centimeter-wide (~3/4”) strips for an ordinary rag rug. Grab your boat shuttle and pay attention to a few simple tips. Your very narrow fabric strips will be woven up in no time.
Tips for Using a Boat Shuttle to Weave Very Narrow Fabric Strips
Use fabric that has minimal fraying at the edges. Trim off any long threads. Loose dangling threads that are long enough to wind themselves on the quill will make you wish you had used a ski shuttle.
Wind the fabric with the right side down. Then, when the quill unrolls, the right side will be facing up.
Handle the wound quill as little as possible to prevent fraying the fabric edges. Simply wrap the tail end of the fabric strip around the filled quill. Do not wrap the end into a slip knot around the quill because the fabric will fray as you release the knot.
Unwind enough weft for the pickbefore you throw the shuttle. Pull the weft out straight from the quill. When a quill unwinds in the shed, the weft comes off at an angle. And as such, if there are any loose threads at the edges of the fabric strips, the threads will wind themselves on the quill and bind it up. And you will wish you had used a ski shuttle.
The first rag rug on this 12/6 cotton warp is well underway. This rug is mostly plain weave, with one simple rosepath repeat every ten centimeters. I am weaving the rosepath motif withouttabby between pattern picks. The treadling is 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1. The dark brown motif contrasts with the surrounding light-colored plain weave. It almost looks as if a thick chain has been laid across the rug. I transform the otherwise dark rosepath “chains” with a simple bright inlay strip.
Rosepath with Inlay
Weave the first four picks of the rosepath pattern, treadling 1, 2, 3, 4 (or, if using a different treadling sequence, weave up to the center pick).
Lay in the center pick (treadle 1, in this example). Wait to beat it in.
Measure and cut the inlay strip to size, tapering the ends.
Put the inlay strip in the shed, laying it directly on top of the fabric strip already there.
Continue weaving to complete the rosepath pattern, treadling 4, 3, 2, 1 (or, as needed, for a different sequence).
You can accomplish a similar effect by weaving in a separate fabric strip for the center pick. In that case, cut tapered ends that are long enough to twist and tuck back into the shed. And carry the weft strip from the previous pick up the side.
The inlay method eliminates the extra bulk at the selvedges, and adds a slight thickness to the center pick, helping to give it a raised look. I am leaving the inlay weft tails loose, but you could cut them a little longer and tuck the ends in, if you prefer.
May you experience the simple pleasure of doing something unexpected.
Why sample? It means using morewarp and weft. And it means waiting longer to start to the “real” project. What do I gain from it, anyway? Is it a waste of resources and time?
I can’t imagine putting on a warp that didn’t have room up front for sampling. There’s more than one reason to put on sufficient warp to weave a sample. It makes perfect sense, especially if there is anything new or unfamiliar about your planned project.
Five Reasons to Add Extra Warp for Sampling
1 Space to play. I want plenty of room to play, and to practice techniques that are new to me. 2 Room to try out designs. By weaving a portion of my designs, I am able to determine what works, and what adjustments need to be made. 3 Warp for testing weft colors. Only when woven can I see the full effect of each potential weft color. 4 Time to gain a consistent beat. When I start the main project, I want to have woven enough to be able to “feel” how firmly or softly I need to move the beater. 5 The best reason of all! It’s always good to have enough warp on the loom that you can invite friends and family to enjoy some weaving time. …Before your main project is in progress.
Drive up to this storybook cottage, and you can tell there is something special about it. It’s the home of Ed and Joanne Hall. When I arrive, Joanne greets me and takes me down the hand-crafted pine stairs to her delightful weaving studio dotted with floor looms.
I recently had the joy of learning the ins and outs of drawloom weaving in this storybook studio in Montana. After the class ended, Joanne and I sat at her kitchen table to share some thoughts about weaving.
Come join us, and sit in on our conversation…
If you could keep only one loom, what would it be?
The 59” Glimåkra Standard. That would be my loom, with a drawloom. A big loom is easier to set up, easier to warp because I can step inside it, and easier to weave on than a little loom. As you get older you need every advantage you can get.
What would you weave on that loom?
I would mostly make narrow warps. I could weave some blankets or larger things, as well, because it’s easy on that loom. It is easy to beat and so easy to treadle. I could also weave tapestry on it.
Are there any weaving secrets you’d like to share?
One important thing to know is to wind a warp with more than one thread, especially a long warp. It is easier to beam and you will prevent problems when you wind with two or more threads. And doing so may also have a positive effect on weaving that warp.
Another thing to consider is that once you start weaving, plan to invest in good equipment. Some weavers start out buying the smallest, least expensive equipment. That’s okay for getting started, but don’t spend too much time with inferior equipment. Once you start warping looms, get a big vertical warping reel that is more than two yards around. You can wind a warp in half an hour, an hour at the most. And the warp will be more even and accurate than one wound on smaller equipment.
If someone wants to learn more about weaving, what is a good way to start?
Go someplace where you can take a class weaving on floor looms, even if you have never woven before. Keep in mind that researching online can be more confusing than helpful. In a class you will learn much faster and you will probably get better information.
Any final thoughts?
In Sweden, weavers guilds are different than they are here in the US. Most everyone in Sweden can join a guild, called a vävstuga, which in Sweden is a place with looms—floor looms, big floor looms. You meet there as often as you want, and you can weave on floor looms in the company of other weavers, who are very helpful. If we had that, it would be wonderful.
That would be wonderful, indeed! I think I got a little taste of that, right here in your Montana studio. Thank you!