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The Sampler Scarf and the Samples

I originally meant to put everything together in one post on Friday, but as I started going through the pictures, I just felt like it was too much information for one post -- and I knew I wouldn't have time to put it all together well all at once on Thursday night.  So I decided to break the post into two parts: what I did to set up the project and the results.  Without further ado, here's the results!

20090219_SamplerScarf.jpg First of all, I'll start out with the finished product.  Here it is basking in the cold light of morning after I finished it.  It is not completely clear, but the selvedges on this project are light-years better than those of the first project I tried.  And this is basically because in the first project I was trying to work out the technique for making it happen without any reference.  With this project, I had the help of good reference materials and I took advantage of them.  It's easier to describe what helped with pictures than it is in text alone, so I will save that discussion for the next project that I work on -- but you can definitely find information about how to have nice selvedges in Weaving Made Easy: 17 Projects Using a Simple Loom-- her pictures are very good and her discussion of this is very helpful for beginners.

20090219_SamplerScarfEdges.jpg Ok!  Onto the sampling.  As I mentioned in my previous post, the warp I set up alternated two ends of my orangey-red and two ends of purple, beginning and ending with two ends of the orangey-red.   My goal with this project was to see how different combinations of weft threads looked in combination with the warp.  I wasn't very systematic about this in the scarf itself (I just did whatever entertained me at the moment, but made sure that I tried all the combinations that I could think of.  I'm putting them in better order here to make the progression more clear.


These are the results for using all orangey-red weft threads (top) or all purple weft threads (bottom).  Consistent with how I understand color theory and using warm and cool colors together, it doesn't surprise me that sample with the all purple weft still reads as very orangey-red while the sample with the orangey-red weft hardly reads purple at all.  Cool colors tend to recede and be dominated by wram colors, and that really played out in this case!

This swatch alternates picks of purple and orange-red.  So when the heddle is in the up position, you are always using one color and when the heddle is in the down position, you are always using the other.  I can't remember which color went with which heddle position for this particular sample, but I can tell you that if you were to swap the colors used for the two different heddle postions, you would get the opposite pattern where what you see as orangey-red now would be purple and what you see as purple would be orange red.  This was the only one of my tests that really worked out this way.

20090219_2x2x2.jpg This is the hound's tooth check pattern.  Two orangey-red weft threads alternate with two purple weft threads.  Because each pair of threads gets used in each of the heddle positions, you don't see any real variation when you alternate with pair you start with. 

20090219_2x4x4.jpg In this case I did 4 threads of purple followed by 4 weft threads of orangey-red (I did try an intermediate two threads of purple and three of red, but it ended up looking kind of muddy and not all that interesting).  Here you can see what I think of as almost a little space invader pattern... but when you back up, it starts to look like stripes.

20090219_2x8x8.jpg Finally, I ended the scarf with 8 threads of purple followed by 8 threads of orangey red.  This pattern definitely reads as wide stripes! (See the sample on the bottom left side of thes scarf in the picture below)
20090219_SamplerScarfInActi.jpg When I first took this scarf off of the loom, it was on the stiff side, and I was a little concerned about whether it would actually work as a scarf.   However, just like most hand knits benefit from a little bath, so do woven materials.  I soaked the scarf for about 1/2 an hour in luke warm water with Eucalin and some mild hair conditioner and the resulting fabric was much softer and more scarf like. 

I ended up tying groups of warp threads together and trimming them to a reasonable length for the finishing of the ends -- this was because I didn't pay attention to the instructions for hemstitching, and, in my excitement about having a finished project, I took the scarf off of the loom before I did the hemstitching, which makes it pretty hard to do that.  But for a simlple scarf, the tied ends are a completely acceptable and durable finish. 

Not only has my scarf seen photographs, it's also seen actual outdoor in the winter action -- I wore it to work on Friday.  Definitely a different feel from a hand knit scarf, but still awfully nice to be wearing something I made.  I am now thinking about what I have in my stash that might be man-friendly, since I think that John might take to a scarf like this (albeit in one regular pattern) better than he does to handknit scarves.  I'd also like to find some chenille yarn to make myself a plaid chenille scarf with.  I have some "Touch Me" in my stash, and I'm wondering if the combination of Touch Me, weaving, and a bit of fulling would make for something very yummy to wear indeed!

So now the thinking about what to try next begins.   I took the plunge and ordered an 8 dent heddle so that I can work with some slightly larger yarn that I have in my stash.  The funny thing about weaving?  I am actually dreaming about it.  I don't think I've ever had dreams that involved knitting.  But with weaving, I wake up with pattern images floating around in my head.  So clearly some part of my brain is absolutely taken with my new craft.  But that said, I still don't really have any firm notion of what is going to be on my loom next.  I'm thinking a little more stash diving might help the process along.
There's a lot to be said for just jumping and trying things.  There's also a lot to be said for taking advantage of the wisdom collected into books by people with a better understanding of the subject.  For my second project, I took extensive advantage of the information in Liz Gipson's Weaving Made Easy -- a collection of projects all based around the rigid heddle loom and meant to help newbies like me get started and get excited about weaving.

First off, for anyone who is thinking about getting started with a rigid heddle loom, I highly recommend this book.  It is definitely not a bible to all things rigid heddle, but it has just enough information to get you off and running and to help you create a polished project.  And the projects, while simple are actually the sorts of things you would want to make for yourself.  She does a nice job of balancing the kinds of projects.  While there are a number of scarves, there are also pillow covers, a belt, placemats, a couple of bags, an obi, a table runner, felted coasters and even felted slippers.  Each project features a different kind of technique and helps the new weaver get their feet wet with regards to both the weaving process and terminology.  With a couple of exceptions, she also focuses on the kind of yarns that a lot of knitters are likely to have in their stash already, making this a doubly nice book for the knitter who is interested in learning to weave.

Make no mistake, I think the most difficult thing about weaving, for me, so far,  is the technical jargon that comes along with it.  I know the language of knitting and spinning, but weaving comes with a whole new set of terms.  Frankly, I can completely understand why this particualr fiber art may have more appeal to men* -- setting up a weaving project and working with loom equipment starts out feeling very technical, almost like you are embarking on some engineering project.  This book does a great job of de-mystifying the terminology.  It defines weaving terms well, and then uses them without overwhelming you with them so that you feel confident and excited about learning a new language rather than baffled by it all. 

Perhaps the only thing I would have liked to have had more of in this book was more discussion of how varying color in the warp and weft has an effect on patterning.  And, thus, that was I decided I wanted to explore more with my next project.

The project I decided to riff off of in the book was a pattern for a simple hounds' tooth check satchel.  It means warping the loom with two colors and weaving with two colors.  So the first thing on my agenda was to pick those two colors.  I knew that I wanted to work in wool for my next project, that I wanted a scarf I could enjoy and that I wanted two colors with fairly high contrast so that I could see clearly what the pattern I was creating looked like.

To find the yarn, I went stash diving (I'm really making an effort right now not to increase my stash as I learn to weave since I have plenty of "unintentioned" yarn to work with) into my Cascade 220 stash and came out with a skein of "Quattro" that falls into the "orange/pink/red" region of the spectrum and a heathery purple skein.  Ideally, the ends per inch (i.e. the number of warp (or vertical) threads per inch) should be about 1/2 the wpi of the yarn.  However, since I only have one heddle, and it's a 10 dent (epi) heddle, I didn't actually bother to do that calculation.  The reality is that the 8 dent heddle probably would have been more ideal for the Cascade since it's a worsted (some say light worsted) weight yarn, but sometimes a girl's gotta run with what she has.  I was hoping that since Cascade is on the light side of worsted that using the 10 dent heddle wouldn't result in a fabric that was too "boardy"**.

I decided that I wanted my scarf to be about 8" wide and 60" long*** -- and after doing the calculations for how much warp and weft I would need, it was clear that 2 skeins of Cascade 220 would have enough yardage for what I wanted to do as long as I used an equal amount of each color in the weft.

After that, I warped up the loom (while enjoying the afternoon with Julie) and got started.   

20090219_SamplerScarfBegins.jpgOne thing I knew from the get-go was that I was not going to do 5 feet of hound's tooth check.  In addition to using this scarf as a project to focus on making my selvedges even, I wanted to use the scarf as a chance to see what patterns I could get from different numbers of picks (weft threads) of each color in combination.  I started with a header of all purple, followed by 4" of the hound's tooth (2 picks of orange followed by 2 picks of purple, etc.).  After that, I tried out a bunch of different combinations, all of about 4" and each separated by a section of the hound's tooth.

The picture above shows the header and the first bit of hounds's tooth.  Pretty neat, eh? I loved watching those first patterns grow.   It probably shouldn't be any surprised that I had that loom warped by Friday night and pretty much had a finished scarf by Sunday morning.  I've got quite a few detail pictures from my sampling, so I'm going to save the final reveal and pattern discussion for Monday to give myself more time to put together a nice post.

* This is not to say that I know what ratio of male to female weavers there are, just that I can understand why it is easier to find more male weavers than one might find male knitters or spinners.

** Of course, if I'd been paying more attention to the second book I bought (which I will talk about in the future) I would have realized that I could have just used 8 out of each 10 slots in my heddle to achieve the effect of having an 8 dent heddle... but sometimes it's hard to learn too many lessons in one project.

** I'll spare the gorey calculation details, but I ended up with 86 warp ends (42 orange, 44 purple) each at about 92" long.