How a project goes to hell

Or: Why Aethelflied is terrible at documenting her stuff.

I’m going to be perfectly honest with you all, writing documentation is not the fun part of a project for me. Make something? Heck yes. Research? Drown me in books, websites, research papers, and extant artifacts. Write up why I did what I did or how I did it? I’d rather pull my teeth out with rusty pliers. I’ll happily explain it, and answer questions if asked, and geek at you about string or words until you start looking for exits and wondering if I’ll notice if you just flee. But actually writing it out? No thank you.

I also suffer from chronic scope creep. Which makes succinct documentation difficult. A typical project for me goes as such:

-I want to make myself a wool hood. (Reasonable)

-I should sew half with bone needles and half with a modern needle. That way I can show there’s really no difference in the finished seams. (This slope is slippery, someone should salt it so no one falls)

– I should weave the fabric for it (Wait… self what’s happening?)

-What’s a period weave pattern for me? (Where are we going? Why am I in a hand basket?)

-What’s a period sett? I should email this museum and ask (Insert flashing danger lights)

-Well I’m already going through this much trouble. May as well spin it too. (Annnnd we’ve arrived at critical scope creep)

This is how we end up with me needing to write a multi-page college dissertation level paper about a rectangle and a pair of squares. Do I document my original project? The weave? The yarn? The needles? The stitch length? What about the breed of sheep? The corners I cut?

This is why I normally end up with a project, that I can talk about for days, that has no written documentation. I hit a point where my reaction to having to write out what I did is “I wove this out of handspun and sewed it with period tools! What more do you want from me?” The answer of course is “How do you know you used period tools?”

Right now I’m looking at documentation like warping a loom. It’s the not fun or sexy part of the project. But it’s gotta happen.

Fleece to White Belt: Post the forth (and final)

AKA: Crap I forgot to finish documenting this.

After combing comes spinning. I used soap stone bottom whirl spindle I picked up at Pennsic this year. My goal was to aim for 1mm singles since the documentation I’ve read references thread counts of 10 threads per cm or 1mm wide.

Now I will admit to a period weaving sin here. Everything I’ve read indicates that weaving would have been done with singles. As this was my first attempt at weaving with just my handspun I didn’t quite trust my singles enough to stand up to the abuse weaving puts yarn through. So I plyed. Next time I’ll do just singles since my warp never broke or even threatened to while I was weaving with it

Plyed warp yarn (yes that’s 2 ply) and the finished ball of warp.

The weft I spun using the fluffy carded under coat of the icelandic fleece. This… did not go well. My weft kept snapping and falling apart even though I’d spun it just as tightly as my warp. I’m not sure I hold with the idea that fabric in 10th century Iceland was woven with an over coat warp and under coat weft. Not discounting it mind you, since I’m not willing to rule out lack of skill on my part, but still giving the notion a lot of side eye.

ANYWAY! Because I plyed the yarn I only did a 12 card wide piece of tablet weaving since I still wanted the over all piece to be roughly one inch wide.

 

 

And I was right on the money with my finished width. Proving once again, that my intuition for my own thread craft is better than that lying “math” thing. Note: I do know that one day refusing to swatch and/or do math is going to bite me. However until that day happens? Math and I are passing acquaintances.

I finished this off by ironing it with the highest heat setting as well as the highest steam to mimic finishing with a smoothing stone. I could have borrowed one, but I was so excited to get this off the loom and finished that I got a bit impatient. The ends were not fringed, but were hemmed with a bone needle and some of the loom waste left from the warp.

The finished dimensions of the belt were 1in wide by 5.5ft long and it is (as far as I know) well loved by the recipient. I have exactly one picture of the finished belt:

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Twill: Attempt the first

Is this thing still on? Hi guys, I know I know, it’s been a while since I posted. But, life happened. Today we’re going to talk about twill. Namely the twill I am making for a specific project.

The project itself is to prove a point: namely that seams sewn with period style bone needles are nearly indistinguishable from seams sewn with a modern steel needle in terms of stitch length. To do this I am weaving fabric and sewing myself a hood where half the seams are sewn with a bone needle and half are sewn with a modern steel needle. I’ll be using different colored thread for the steel vs bone seams, but only I will know which is which. The goal is to have people try to guess which is which and also to check things like long term seam durability and relative stress on the fabric as it ages. Now I could use a commercial fabric and make the WAY faster and easier on myself, but this is me and why on earth would I do that?

Lets begin with some specs: I’m making a 2×2 twill (to explain for non weavers that means each weft thread goes over two warp threads then under the next two in ultimately a diagonal pattern. Don’t worry, I’ll post pictures further down. You’ve seen 2×2 twill, you just may not have known the name.) This produces a nice strong fabric with a bit of bias stretch. Also it’s pretty and super popular in period from what we can tell.

I want 2 yards (64 inches) of 12 inch wide fabric. So here’s the math to get there:

Warp: 

I first I need to figure out what my wpi (wraps per inch) of my warp thread is, then convert that into epi (ends per inch) for weaving. The good news is the math for that is super simple. Divide the wpi in half to get a rough idea of the epi. My yarn was 14 wpi, which means it’s going to be roughly 7 epi. NOTE: This is a super coarse gauge. This is outer wear fabric. I should be aiming for 10 or so ends per cm or 25 epi. However I am using stash wool for this and refuse to feel ashamed.

So we need to multiply our epi (7) with how wide we want the fabric (12in) to get 84. BUT that doesn’t account for draw in (when your weft pulls your warp slightly in ward) so you should do a test swatch to see what percentage of draw in you have to enough additional warp threads to get you to what you want. I did not do this and simply doubled the thread count because I am both lazy and paranoid. So yes, I warped 168 threads.

But how long should they be? Inventive Weaving On A Little Loom (Syne Mitchell, 2015, Story Publishing) suggests adding 20% to the length to account for loom waste and take up. That means 2.2 yards or 76.8 inches. I like round numbers so went to 77 inches.

Because I’m doing a two colored warp, half grey handspun I had lying around and half white commercial yarn of unknown providence I needed 84 grey strands of 77 inches long and 84 white strands of 77 inches.

Formulas for your edification:

(wpi/2)x(width + draw in %) = number of warp threads.

length + 20% = length of warp threads

Weft:

Weft math is simple. This is a balanced fabric which means my weft is the same epi as my warp. So 7, multiplied by 12 means 84 inches of weft to do one inch of fabric, times 64 = 5376 inches divided by 32 = 168 yards of weft. Notice how I didn’t need to add in the loom waste or take up or draw in to this math. Why? There’s no warp there.

Formula for your edification:

((wpi/2) x width x length)/32 = weft yardage.

Now lets actually warp the loom! One day I’ll figure out how to love warping. That day is not today. Warping alone is an exercise in both patience and self hatred. I know there are easier ways to warp, I know there are better ways to warp. I, however, live with animals who are jerks about mama’s string based hobbies and therefore Measures Must Be Taken. Which means I warp funny. Trust me guys, if you want to weave please look online and in any of the lovely print books that illustrate better ways. Don’t do what I do.

To prove how annoying this is, I present: How Aethelfied Warps, a photo tutorial.

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This is the empty back beam. Yes, it is in fact a size 15 knitting needle. I realized the loom I’m borrowing had no beams at 10pm and I couldn’t find any dowels. There’s a tiny rubberband keeping everything from slipping off the tip.

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The warp tied on to the back beam in packs of 4, with all the length chained up to keep it from getting tangled.

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Next we unchain one bundle at a time, put each thread through it’s heddle and dent in the reed then immediately rechain to keep everything in order.

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Tie everything to the front beam

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Tension the back beam. Now we’re warped. This whole process took 14 hours over 2 days. Yes I took breaks, but still. Warping takes a long time. But! Now we’re ready to weave!

As you may notice from the picture above this is a 4 harness table loom. This makes weaving twill super simple. The pattern repeat is such:

1+2 up 3+4 down.

2+3 up 1+4 down

3+4 up 1+2 down

1+4 up 2+3 down.

That produces fabric that looks like this:

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Look familiar?

This piece is exactly 12 inches wide (I win!) so lets take a look at my thread count

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This should be 7. It’s 17. WTF?

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This should also be 7. It’s 15. I don’t even.

Let this just go to show that math and I are not friends, but my intuition is generally correct. Glad I doubled my warp. At least this is now on the coarse end of period fabric?