Last September our son had a significant birthday and I decided it was a significant event in my life too! Thus I decided to treat myself to Janet Phillip’s (1) book ‘Designing Woven Fabrics’ and that weaving the sample blanket from Part One of the book would be my winter project.
This would be a good reason to get another warp on my Schadt Might Wolf 8 shaft floor loom.
The aim being to weave a multi- sectioned sample blanket based on 2/2 Twill with 10 different threadings across the width and then 50 sets of 2” deep different treadling variations to give 500 patterns on the side I was looking at and virtually the same number on the reverse. ( I believe one horizontal pattern is woven and then repeated by weaving the ‘backside’ so to speak. So I would have 980 patterns).
The suggested yarn in the book is 2/6 cotton but as I prefer to weave in wool I decided I would do the blanket in wool too. However, as it was suggested that the warp would be at 20 ends per inch I would clearly need finer wool than I would normally weave with. I needed 3 colours that I liked and where the warp and weft would have a good contrast so that I could see the pattern definition well. Fortunately I have a good stash of cones of wool so that was not a problem. My yarns
I set up a narrow, short warp but used the 20 dent reed, which I had not used before and did a couple of trials to check that that all would work. Chiefly I was checking that the yarn would not break and that when washed and pressed I could see the patterns well. This was useful but it would have been better with a wider warp.
I was nervous about doing this blanket as it seemed complicated, but fortunately I had a friend who had finished her sample blanket and she lent it to me until I had got going with mine, it was a great confidence boost.
I did seemingly endless calculations to check I had enough heddles on each half of each of the 4 shafts and this involved adding more, borrowed from the 4 shafts not being used.
For the weaving I used the following yarns:
Knoll supersoft Wool 11.5/2 in natural, blue, green
The thinner natural used on the left of the warp -2/16 John Woodhead, Holmfirth- I have had this some time.
I started making the warp at the end of November, but Christmas got in the way. I decided that I would wind each section (A-J ) separately and label them as this would make getting the warp onto the loom easier as there were a different number of warp threads in each section. On 27th December I was up to threading the reed. With this loom I thread the reed sitting at a table using a wonderful device my DH has made. I then add the reed to the loom turning the reed 180 degrees and then tie the warp to the front beam. Threading the reed took a day- half before lunch and half after.
I love this loom for lots of reasons, but one of them is the fact that I can remove the back beam and sit very close to the heddles. So with the warp through the reed, I can thread the heddles in the correct order without the need for a raddle or back cross. I have the loom arranged so I have a large window behind me, as I do this, and the daylight really helped. I had to spread this over a couple of days - I estimate 7 hours in total.
The next job was relatively easy, it was tying the warp threads onto the back beam and then winding the warp on evenly. I am a big fan of Madelyn van dear Hooghly method given in her ‘Warping your looom’ dvd. I used lots of sticks to separate the long warp (5 m) and we had to stop, visit B and Q and wait for DH to make more. I think we had used some for tying up plants in the garden.
Once I was happy with this, all that was left was to tie on to the front beam and get started with the actual weaving. Tying on worked well although I did the final knots too soon!
Janet P has more trial weaving before starting than I would normally do. I thought I had found the 2 or 3 crossed threads I had while doing plain weave but this was not the case and doing a sample of one of the repeats found some more, hence I should have not done the final tightening and knotting of the warps until after that. I also liked the idea of putting in a different coloured thread across this sampling area, I choose one of my hand dyed scarlet yarns.
For the tie up I used the 4 treadles on the left for the patterning and the 2 most on the right for plain weave. Later during the weaving I used the remaining 4 treadles too for the individual shafts as this meant I did not have to change any of the tie ups during the weaving.
I tried to weave a couple of the horizontal pattern sections each day when I could.... we were trying to do some decorating during January too !
It was a lovely project to do as each horizontal pattern section presented me with 10 patterns and some were very unexpected. I kept detailed notes and made each horizontal section at least 2” deep, some were much deeper. If the pattern had a lot of picks then I did at least two repeats.
So on 4 Feb I took the blanket of the loom. When washed and pressed the final piece was 21 “ by about 9 ft.
I am VERY pleased with it and have now photographed both sides so I can have all the patterns on my iPad. Janet herself says that she uses this all the time and spends much time examining individual patterns. I am also doing this and lots of ‘what ifs’ keep filling my head.
I have quite a bit of warp left and have decided to just play with changing weft colours and pattern combinations, although the book contains instructions for changing warp colours in this ‘spare’ warp. After this I am keen to do another fresh warp sample exploring different colour combinations and am having many ‘ what if’ thoughts along those lines.
What I learnt that was unexpected:
A wide selvedge works well....I usually cut the cloth that I weave so, although I like neat edges, these are not my priority
The wool I used made a very nice finished cloth
Spending weave time and warp (about 6 “) at the start before finally tying the front knots and before the weaving starts pays real dividends
The usefulness of the ‘face mark’ thread
If you are wondering about trying this I would definitely suggest doing it, it has been a great first weaving project for the New Year.
- Janet Phillips is a weaver based in Somerset. She has been designing and weaving handwoven fabrics for over 30 years. She tutors a number of weaving courses, unfortunately I have not attended any of these but I do know people who have. They have found them inspirational and transformational for their weaving. www.janetphillips-weaving.co.uk