Getting started with the Plain Weave Study Group

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on 25 May 2010 9:49 PM

Take the plain out of plain weave with color, yarn thickness sett, hand-manipulated techniques, and more. Included in this group can be diversified plain weave, M's and O's, canvas weave, log cabin, and more. For some of these  variations, see:

Marguerite Davison, A Handweaver's Pattern Book, pages 47-54 (basket weave), 55-64 (M's and O's), 65-70 (canvas weave),

Anne Dixon, The Handweaver's Pattern Directory, pages 46-47 and 60-61 (hopsack), 160-163 (canvas weave),

Carol Strickler, A Handweaver's Book of 8-Shaft Patterns, pages 94-99 (M's and O's), 166-172 (diversified plain weave)

Sharon Alderman, Mastering Weave Structures, pages 8, 10-13, 222, 236 (basket weave), 104-106 (canvas weave), 22-24 (log cabin)

Madelyn van der Hoogt, Best of Weaver's: Thick 'n Thin, pages 5-30 (diversified plain weave)

Donna Muller, Handwoven Laces, pages 12-21 (basketweave), 22-39 (canvas weave)

Also, don't forget to check the Handwoven Magazine Indexes. As you come up with other resources, post them here!

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CapeChris wrote
on 9 Jun 2010 9:16 AM

Hi, I'm new to weaving but having a wonderful time with what I'm doing.  I have a 4 harness table loom, as well as a rigid heddle loom.  I'd like some advise on the yarn to buy for the warp.  Too light weight and the threads break, acrilic and they stretch.  Help!, lol.  I think part of my thread breaking issue is that I'm making a warp too wide for someone who doesn't know what they're doing yet.

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janetdawson wrote
on 9 Jun 2010 1:28 PM

Hi, Chris!

Is it your selvage threads that are breaking, or threads in the middle of the warp? Is it the same thread breaking over and over, or are different threads breaking at different times?

There are several things that can lead to broken threads and only some of them are related to the yarn itself. The thickness or fineness of the threads isn't usually the problem - there are really strong skinny threads and really wimpy fat ones - nor is the width of your warp.  Some of the usual suspects are draw-in, a loom or threading glitch, an issue with tension, and finally a issue with the yarn itself.

Most of the time, threads break near the selvage; when they do, draw-in is almost always to blame.  If your warp is drawing in (getting narrower) on either side and those side threads are the ones that are breaking, then draw-in is almost certainly your culprit. (Other symptoms of draw-in are a "smile" at the fell, i.e. the fabric creeping closer to the reed at the sides than in the middle.)  The extra friction of the reed or heddle rubbing against those selvage threads is enough to make them wear thin and break, especially threads designed for knitting rather than weaving which might not be as smooth or stand up to as much abrasion.

If you suspect draw in is to blame, there are a couple of ways to reduce it. The most important and best way is to always leave the weft lying in the shed at an angle when you beat rather than pulling it straight across the warp.  Which is to say: there should be some space between the weft and the last shot you beat in at the selvage where the weft exits the shed. I usually leave an inch or two on narrow, scarf width warps and as much as four inches or more on wide blanket warps. Often that means my weft is closer to the beater/heddle rather than the fabric edge before I beat.  A second thing to try on a floor loom is beating on an open shed, i.e. with your foot still on the treadle holding the shafts apart. That will also allow more weft into the shed so it draws in less.

If a single thread in the middle of the warp keeps breaking over and over, check to see if 1) that thread has more tension on it that the rest, 2) that thread is twisted in the heddle (i.e. threaded through the heddle in the wrong direction) or 3) the heddle it's in or the space in the reed it's going through is rough. Any of those things can stress and stretch a thread and cause it to snap. If the breaking thread is smack in the middle of the warp, check to see if it's catching on the hooks that support the heddle bars in the shaft frame. It could be hooking up on another shaft's hooks, too.

If lots of your threads are breaking all over the warp, then you're probably right that it's a problem with the yarn itself. Some yarns just don't have enough tensile strength to stand up to the tension they're under on the loom, or their structure (fuzzy, loopy, bumpy) makes them catch or abrade in the reed and cause problems. If you've already got a warp on the loom and the threads are breaking, try easing up on the tension.  Most new weavers put far more tension on their warps than they really need, usually because they find it helps with even selvages. Some things do need high tension (rugs are a prime example) but most projects weave fine with only enough tension to support the shuttle as it passes through the shed.

To see whether a yarn has enough strength to be used as warp before it goes on the loom, grasp a length of it with your hands a foot or two apart and give it a good tug. If it breaks easily, it won't hold up on the loom. If you've got to tug Pretty Hard to break it, then it should be okay, especially if you use a bit less tension.  If it's got some strength but not enough to warp a floor loom with, it might still be fine on a rigid heddle since folks usually don't put as much tension on their RH warps as on a floor loom.

If your yarn has enough strength but is loopy or bumpy and gets caught in the reed, try using a wider reed and sley more threads per dent to cut down on abrasion. For instance, I weave a lot of scarves with a boucle in the warp at 12 EPI but the yarn is too bumpy for a 12 dpi reed.  To keep it from catching in the reed every time I beat, I sley those warps in an 8 dent reed instead, putting one thread through the first dent, two through the second, one through the third, two through the fourth, etc. That way I still get 12 EPI but the threads have enough room to move smoothly through the spaces in the reed.  

I hope that helps some! The two most important things to remember from all of that is to test the strength of a yarn before you use it for warp (yarns that aren't good for warp still make great weft) and to leave the angle in the shed when you beat.

Good luck! Let me know how it goes. :)

- Janet

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CapeChris wrote
on 10 Jun 2010 11:39 AM

Wow, that's a lot of information, but I think you hit on every problem that I've had with breaking threads!  I never thought of testing the yarn first by pulling on it.  Now, if I can just keep the shuttle in the shed instead of hopping out and flying across the room...........

Thanks so much for your help, these forums are a FANTASTIC idea!

Chris

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tham wrote
on 8 Jul 2010 8:47 PM

Janet,

I read your reply to Chris and would ask a couple questions myself.  I've been weaving off and on for 2-3 years.  Mostly scarves on a rigid heddle as well as a small four shaft/4 treadle.  I thought I had a pretty good handle on warping both types of looms, but have recently had a lot of difficulties with the rigid heddle.

It seems that when I warp the RH I always have an issue with the right side (sitting facing the loom) becoming very loose/slack as I weave.  I use grocery sacks when I wind the warp and feel like I have an even tension as I'm warping.  (My husband holds a tension on the warp as I'm warping from front to back).  I just recently also had some "weak" yarn (I weave mostly with alpaca right now, owner ya know) and probably could have gotten away with continuing the scarf, except the warp (on the right side) started getting slack and as I put more tension on the warp, the threads began to break all over the weaving.  So with a combination of my problem of the warp consistently getting slack and the last batch of yarn becoming stretched to tight and being a little fragile, apparently, my most recent endeavor has just been cut off the loom.

Gee Whiz, I just re-read the above and decided I'm quite a whiner tonight.  My basic question is why the warp consistently becomes slack on the right side, not all across the warp?  And what I might do to continue weaving with alpaca yarn on my RH?

Thanks for any help or insight you may have.

Teresa

 

 

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janetdawson wrote
on 22 Jul 2010 6:40 AM

Oh dear! I'm sorry it's taken so long to reply to your plea for help! I've had this happen to me and know how frustrating it can be. Like you, I've had the problem more on rigid heddle looms, and for me it's happened when I've warped using the direct method, 'cause it's a lot trickier to keep your tension even between the back beam and a warping peg way across the room than it is on a warping board. In fact, as I type this, I wonder if putting a warping board on the table in front of the loom and winding around it while still using the direct method would be a help or just a big nuissance... hmm, that might be worth exploring.

Anyway, a few questions to see if I can help diagnose your problem:

  1. Is it always the right side and never the left that's the issue?

  2. Do you have more draw in on the loose side?

  3. How wide are your warps?

  4. Are you using the direct warping method, or do you wind your warp on a separate warping board or mill and then transfer it to the loom?

  5. If you wind on a board or mill, does your method of transferring the warp to the loom always put the ends you wound first on the left side and the ends you wound last on the right (or vice versa)?

  6. If you wind on a board or mill, do you wind the entire warp as a single chain or in sections?

  7. Does your husband hold the entire chain in a single hand when he's putting tension on it while you beam, or does he hold part in his right and part in his left?

The first few things that come to mind as possible culprits are a difference in the tension you're putting on the warp as you wind it, a difference in the tension your husband is putting on the chain as you beam it, or a difference in the amount of draw in on the right side as compared to the left as you weave it.

The last of those three is the easiest to detect: if the warp is pulling in a lot more on the right side than the left, you know you've got more draw in on that side and you can try to reduce it by using some of the suggestions I gave Chris.

The other two aren't as obvious but you can still do a couple things to help determine if they're happening. If you normally use the direct warping method, try winding your warp on warping board instead (not the hybrid method I was mulling over above) and see if that makes any difference. If you already wind your warps on a board but do so in a single chain, try winding the warp in two halves so that you “reset” half way through. That should help you determine if it's something in the tension while you're winding.

When beaming the warp, change jobs with your husband and let him turn the warp beam and manage the packing while you tension on the warp. If you or he hold half the warp in your left hand and half in your right, be really careful to pull on each half equally – most of us are stronger in our dominate hand and pull harder with that hand without realizing.

I'd only change one thing at a time or if you do have success you won't know which change made the difference. Of course, if you have success, maybe you don't care which thing made the difference as long as it works! :)

As for the tender, breaking yarns, that's just a big bummer. As I mentioned to Chris, you can usually get away with more fragile yarn on a RH than you can on a floor loom since generally folks weave under less tension but if you're having to crank the tension way up to manage a loose side then you're bound to run into trouble with fragile stuff. Is your loom on a stand? If so, you could try weighting the loose side of your warp from the back rather than putting more tension on the whole thing. To do this, put a rod under the warp and pull it around to the warp beam, then hang weights from the rod on either side, making the weight on the loose side heavier than the one on the tight side. Make sure you've got a way to keep the weights from sliding around, or you might find both of them on the loose side before long! There are other pitfalls you can run into with weighting your warp like this as well but desperate times call for desperate measures and all that.

Good luck and let me know what you discover! If your answers to the above questions trigger any more ideas, I'll be sure to let you know. :)

Janet

 

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trasimm wrote
on 22 Jul 2010 9:35 AM

I would love to join.........I have a four shaft floor loom and a rigid heddle. I am very interested in all plain weave possibilities for both, especially color and weave effects!

 

Tracy

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tham wrote
on 22 Jul 2010 7:59 PM

Thanks Janet........I will look into your suggestions.  I do warp on a warping board all at one time and then transfer to the RH.  Good thoughts on splitting the warp, changing "jobs" for warping.  Essentially it's only on the right side so when I take it warp off the warping board the outside of the warp is the right side of the RH (did that make sense?)  I took the warp off the loom and will use it for weft on something else and try warping again.

I really do appreciate your thoughts and questions!  Helps to have a different perspective and to realize I'm not the only one having this problem!

Thanks again!

Teresa

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janetdawson wrote
on 28 Jul 2010 8:07 AM

Welcome, Tracy! We haven't actually been talking about plain weave much yet, have we? I'd love to start a thread on the many, many variations on plain weave that a person can weave on a floor loom, on a rigid heddle, etc. There's so much to talk about, colour and weave included!

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Louise@13 wrote
on 18 Aug 2010 2:10 PM

Another potential source of plain weave variations is the publication, Warp and Weft by Robin & Russ Handweavers.

I happened to have a copy of their November 1956 issue when they were still in Santa Barbara. *

The weave is called "Popcorn" and consists of plain weave varied with 2 sizes of weft, a few skipped dents and a couple of tripled pairs of floats.

The sample in the photo is done in yellow and does vaguely resemble microwave popcorn (which had not been invented in 1956).

The piece I am weaving is in cotton, tencel and rayon yarns in sunset orange and red tones. On the loom, it resembles the photo in texture. I am curious to see how it looks and moves off the loom and after finishing in hot water, soap and a run through the dryer.

*This may have been printed off the web from the online resource in Arizona...the University of Arizona or Arizona State??? with thousands of magazines, out of print books, leaflets and flyers on weaving.

Louise

 

 

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Joni Jean wrote
on 25 Aug 2010 2:17 PM

I've been interested in variations on Log Cabin in doing rag rugs after making several rugs in a traditional style and finding them too 'regular', I guess, would be the word. I agree there are endless possibilities and I'm looking forward to trying them all.

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on 14 Sep 2010 11:51 AM

I just read your suggestion for using part of a warping board for direct warping of a rigid heddle loom.  I have used this method (great minds do think alike) and it did improve the warp tension.  This made me very happy, because I really like to use the direct warping method.  I just use one section of the board clamped to a table. 

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janetdawson wrote
on 26 Feb 2011 5:07 AM

Beth Morimoto:

I just read your suggestion for using part of a warping board for direct warping of a rigid heddle loom.  I have used this method (great minds do think alike) and it did improve the warp tension.  This made me very happy, because I really like to use the direct warping method.  I just use one section of the board clamped to a table. 

Cool! I'm really glad to hear that someone's tried it with good results - I'm sure that'll come in handy at some time down the road. :D  Thanks for letting us know!

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janetdawson wrote
on 26 Feb 2011 5:12 AM

Louise@13:

The piece I am weaving is in cotton, tencel and rayon yarns in sunset orange and red tones. On the loom, it resembles the photo in texture. I am curious to see how it looks and moves off the loom and after finishing in hot water, soap and a run through the dryer.

I'm really curious how your Popcorn weave turned out, Louise! Was it what you'd hoped for? Any advice you can share with us? How did the different fibres work together in the fabric?

A production weaver I know always used to alternate one thick thread with two thin in her wool yardage but I don't think she left any empty dents or did anything to create floats. She gave me permission to copy her signature style once she'd gotten out of production weaving but I haven't done it yet. Have meant to!

 

Janet

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janetdawson wrote
on 26 Feb 2011 5:14 AM

Joni Jean:

I've been interested in variations on Log Cabin in doing rag rugs after making several rugs in a traditional style and finding them too 'regular', I guess, would be the word. I agree there are endless possibilities and I'm looking forward to trying them all.

Did you try the log cabin rugs, Joni? I just saw some rugs that a friend had done in a rag rug class that were essentially log cabin in structure. They looked really neat! Would love to see pictures of yours, too. :)

 

Janet

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