Thursday, 30 June 2016

Day two, a more fully packed reed, shed still won't open.

The ladies at Williamsburg were lovely yesterday and wrote back with some ideas for getting the weft threads to pack in tighter.  This morning I rethread the reed and retied the warp to the front beam and have just spent the last two hours trying to get the shed to open enough for me to throw my shuttle and weave.

Then I tried spraying with water to cut down on the fuzz...didn't work, won't open.

Then I resorted to the dreaded starch.  What a fucking frustrating mess this is.  Still won't open.

Weaving linen has to be easier than this.

Yesterday I read that a man could easily weave 2 yards/day, cotton, he could weave 6-8 yards a day.  I can't even weave five threads.

and those five threads look like garbage.

I'm sitting, well standing at my loom, pounding the living tar our of the harnesses to try to get them to open when mum calls up the stairs and asks if I should take a break.  She suggests that maybe I go to Williamsburg and see what they do that's different.  Not a half assed idea actually.

Weaving linen has to be easier than this.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016


This damned linen!

I am now finally weaving...well, if you call it that.  I got the warp tied on and the tension good, I tried to open the shed and it won't open.  What have I done wrong?  turns out, nothing. the linen is just that fuzzy that it is sticking together and not opening.   Ok, so a little armstronging it apart and I started weaving. OK, now I'm having tension issues, so I stop and try to figure out what is going on.  The back beam fell off the hook and was hanging there, all askew.  Well, at least this time is wasn't the warp falling off.  This was an easier fix.

So I start weaving, again.

The shed not opening is still being a bit of a bitch to my progress, but so is the fact that I'm not getting the weft threads to pack in tight enough.

Once again, we have cheesecloth.  I am frustrated.

I have another hour before the cat groomer gets here to give Dubh a haircut.  I have an email in to Williamsburg weaving studio.  They just wove up a similar cloth this Spring.  I hope I get an answer back soon...I might have to resort to the starch again.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Zen and the art of dressing a loom

Many people balk at buying fabric that costs more than 2$/metre.  It is only when you have produced cloth that you fully understand why it was the cloth for garments that cost so much in any historical period prior to industrialization.  Even with the power loom, dressing the loom is still a time consuming, back breaking process that is done by human beings.  Cloth becomes cheaper the more that is being woven at any given time, mostly because you only have to dress a loom once.

That all said, my weaving process is slow on purpose.  I do enjoy the set up process, but it does take a lot more time than I would like it to.  First I wind my warp, which really should be done in small sections when you are working with linen threads.  Otherwise they will find a way to twist up and tie themselves and the other threads in knots.  So my warp has been wound off in sections of about 30 threads each.  And even then, it was a bit of a mess to wind on the back beam.  Pierre and I got it done in one evening though, which was surprizing.  I am only weaving 5 metres this go around.  I haven't actually counted the number of threads yet...that scares me a bit.  The width is about 35 inches.  I'm using 1/12 weight linen thread.

Once we got it wound on the back beam, then I began threading the heddles on the loom.  When my loom guy came to set up the old lady, he asked me if I'd really need more heddles than what came with her.  I looked at the box and shrugged, I really didn't know.  Well, I can safely say now that yes, I will need more, because I am out.  In order to thread, you stand in the loom, kinda hunched over the harnesses that hold the heddles, and you carefully tease one thread at a time from the mess in the back and thread it through the eye of the heddle with a hook.  The heddle hook is my go-to tool for dressing the loom, I'd rather use it than the reed hook when I get to that step.  I have a reed hook.  It's a good luck charm in my handbag.  I never actually use it.
So I've gotten to about 200 threads towards the end and am now making new heddles so I can continue threading the rest of the warp.  Each thread heddle is slip knotted to the top bar, then two little knots are made at the height of the heddle eyes, then the bottom is tied to the bottom bar of the harness. This eats up a crap tonne of time. I watch BBC renovation shows on youtube while I work. Or Tales from the Green Valley.

You know what people hate about sewing?  It's having to haul out all your gear, and then crawling around on the floor to cut out a garment, then just being able to sit down to sew when you have to tidy everything up again so you can get supper on the table.

This is what making thread heddles is like.  So I took yesterday off and just enjoyed the holiday of Saint-Jean Baptiste.

Once I get the heddles threaded, then I will thread the reed...and only then I can start weaving.  That part won't take me very long at all in comparison.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Lost a month, but not entirely unproductive

For those that follow along at home (on facebook), mum's last chemo cycle was particularly difficult.  She didn't get up and dressed at all save for two evenings where we took her out for dinner, one of those being Lebanese street food from the market, so that doesn't count really as being 'up'.  Needless to say, my warp took a back seat for the month as I didn't want to leave her alone.  Add to that my brother and his family came up and my nephew sleeps in my studio when they are here. And our cousin came to hang out with mum while Pierre and I went to a conference on the American Revolution in the Mohawk valley New York.

I wasn't entirely unproductive though.  I started Pierre's new linen breeches about a month ago, and got those to the point of just needing knee bands, and I started yet another pair of socks.  I figure if I just keep knitting socks in the in-between times, the three of us will have enough wool socks to carry us through just about any event.  These ones are back to the off white of the natural sheep, but I had so much fun with the 'cammo' socks, that I'm going to be looking into dying some more yarn.  I'm also going to be needing to get some more yarn...if anyone wants to stop in to the NSCAD store and pick up a skein or two of single ply, and send it up with anyone who is passing this way, it would be greatly appreciated.  I'm also willing to do a bulk order with Neil, but that will have to wait until after the summer and weaving.

So I finally got back to the studio on Saturday morning.  We spent the bulk of the cool temps cleaning it up and organizing it.  I finally own a dresser for my T-shirts and sweaters.  We got a couple more boxes unpacked, that sort of stuff.  This morning I got back to my warp and finished winding it off and dressing the back beam.  It is now ready to be wound on the loom, which I'm hoping Pierre and I can tackle over the next couple of evenings.  I have a few metres to weave before the grandkids come.  I want to have the loom naked when they get here, since Audree is still only three, and prone to getting into things she's not supposed to.

Getting back to that conference.  I understand the dynamics of history, but was surprized at how little the Loyalist story is being discussed in the States.  I will be looking into that more over the next few years while we are here.  That's the story of my own history, and Nova Scotia's history has a lot to do with the waves of immigrants.  I hope to be portraying a Loyalist when I'm in the field, re-enacting.  It will be interesting to see how other living historians take to that narrative.  The conference itself helped me to get a better grip on my dissertation because of that.
I was also happily surprized to see how much volumn was given to the Native stories surrounding the revolution.  Pierre was also inspired by it, and more interested in looking into his own family history with that regard.  It appears that the Mohawk people here were just as caught up in the two 'sides' of the conflict as the rest of us were.  Cool.

Our cousin was also sharing stuff she has been uncovering while trying to tidy up my great uncle's house after his passing.  She tells me that the 'old house', my uncle's house being the 'second house' on the property, may still have foundations to explore.  It would be wicked to be able to do some archaeology up there.  She also tells me there are some of the old orchard left, and again, the historian in me wants to see if I can grow some of great-great grandpa's heritage breed apples.  The property has been in our family since the 18th century, and we are all excited to know that it has been passed into good hands.

Well, that's an update anyway.  I should go get the downstairs part of my day started. My tummy's growling, and I'd like to get that sock finished today.