Cranbrook Loom

I finally got around to putting the Cranbrook loom to work.

I had started off this past fall with a simple scarf, or at least what I thought was simple.  I figured I would use the loom’s full ability and set it up for an 8-shaft pattern.  First off, I would have to finally figure out the tie ups for the treadles.  How hard could it be?

Well, it turns out to be a rather complicated process of finessing just how much to adjust each treadle.  And each treadle has to both pull up the shafts in use while simultaneously pulling down the shafts not in use.  That is not technically the right description, but it is something I’ve not done before, so was a little strange for me. Then, to make it more complicated, each time you adjust a treadle, it changes the other treadles that you just got done adjusting.  Several times I lost track of all the adjustments, and just started over again.

One popular thing that owners of the older Cranbrooks do is to replace the chains that control the loom with “easier” to manage nylon ties.  My Cranbrook is one of those older ones that a previous owner had updated.  After hours of work, I could not get the newer ties to work properly as the pins that are supposed to secure the ties kept falling out.  Fortunately, the loom came with a box of the original chains and I decided to try them out.  They were a huge improvement, both in my ability to make adjustments, and the extra weight they put on the treadles and keeping the shafts properly aligned.  I eventually got the loom ready to use.

I started my scarf using some of Mom’s old alpaca yarn.  It turned out to be rather brittle and possibly moth-eaten, so that the yarn was continually breaking.  Also, in writing out the weaving instructions, I inadvertently missed some treadles in my treadling guide.  All the threads in a certain group were getting tighter and tighter.  Suffice it to say, I used some sort of treadling pattern that eventually made the continued weaving of the scarf impossible.  So, between the uneven tension, the yarn breakage, and frustration, I ended up just cutting the rest of the yarn from the loom.  On all counts, it was a complete failure.

Other work distracted me for a couple of months, and I think I was avoiding the loom altogether, and pretending not to see it, even though it is the largest item in the studio.  When the frenzy of Holiday sales venues were done, I relented and decided to do a couple of test rugs.

The first was a simple plain weave rug, and what started as a sample turned out a very nice little rug.  Also, I’m a sucker for red and black.

For the the second rug, I used a 3 color twill pattern.  Unfortunately, I didn’t wind enough on the loom and had to cut the sample short.  And it really was too bad, since it would have made a very fine little rug.  So now it’s just a sample or maybe a dresser top lamp rug or something.

It was another one of those instances where I decided to use colors I wouldn’t normally use.  But it turned out so well that I’ll have to keep these in mind for a future rug.

Then a local artist approached me and wanted to commission a rug made.  I thought I would use the Cranbrook, and have the Gilmore still available for other production rugs.

The client wanted green, blue, grey and red.  And she wanted a particular weave pattern I had done on a rug a couple years ago.  It is meant to hang on a wall next to a collection of swords.  I think it turned out pretty sword-worthy.

Even with the color scheme, the idea of the same pattern for the entire rug seemed a little boring to me.  Plus, I didn’t have a good way to incorporate the red.  So I did a tapestry weave section in the middle where I could do a rug within a rug.  The different yarns gave it a little wavy effect, which, even though it suggests some technical problems, gives it an organic look.  Of course the circle was nothing but trouble, but after a couple of do-overs, one of which involved cutting the several hours of work off with scissors, it actually resembles a circle. 

The background weave pattern was a skip twill, which in this case was a normal twill threading, but skipping every 5th thread.  The skipped threads give the weave pattern those ridges running the length of the rug.

The Cranbrook loom has a nice action without having to press too hard on the treadle with my feet, or having to hold down the harnesses with my hand just to get a good shed to fit the shuttle in.  There are a couple of modifications I would like in the future.  The first in a sectional beam.  For you non-weavers, the sectional beam allows me to wind the warp threads on the loom a small section at a time, getting a more consistent and even tension.  The other modification is not so much for the loom, but some way to keep it from scooting forward as I weave.  For the Gilmore loom I attached blocks to the floor, so maybe something like that.

It will take a while to get as comfortable with the Cranbrook as I am with the Gilmore, but despite its fussiness, overall the new loom worked better than I thought.

Next up:  Rio Grande yarns.

 

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Production Backlog

Back in October, I had made a series of plain weave rugs on the Gilmore loom for sale at the holiday markets.  Of the five, I sold two in November and one in January.  I thought I should probably take photos and share before they’re all gone and I have no record of them.

The first is a rug similar to an earlier one with what I was calling tie dyed yarn.  This one uses some green/yellow/brown yarns plied together that created a grainy effect.  Nice rug, if you like yellow. The rug also uses a design scheme that I have use a few times before and I think the proportions work well.  One of the sold rugs used this same design, but with red and black stripes and a black and orange tie dyed yarn.

rug yellow black stripes

Yellow black stripes - detail

The fringe features my go to finish, the Celtic braid.  I know it’s not, but a neighbor once it looked like some kind of Celtic knot, so for lack of another name, that’s what I call it.

Yellow black stripes - fringe

rug yellow black stripes

The other one features some simple stripes using a rustic, bulky yarn.  rug brown stripes

This one has no fringe, which usually doesn’t work well with a plain weave rug.  But in this case, the yarn was bulky and fluffy enough that it could stretch and accommodate the fringe threads being darned back into the rug.  rug brown stripes detail

rug brown stripes detail

I’m still playing around with developing a good setting for photographing my work.  For some past works, I have just laid them on the bare studio floor, which is vinyl but painted over.  I have nothing against it in principle, but really, who paints a floor brick red?  Ugh.  This set features a white table cloth on the floor.  Mrs. Daylight had the idea of stretching it tight and holding it down with weights.  Overall, it worked out well.  There are skylights and lots of windows in the studio and the light is generally pretty good.  But it was cloudy and getting late in the day, so my background ended up with a blue tint.  Even so, I think the rug colors are pretty accurate.

 

Next up: from the Cranbrook loom

Squares

Today, I finally got around to taking photos of one of my more recent rugs.  It was kind of an experiment, and if it works, I have two more in the queue that may get the same treatment. The studio generally has excellent lighting.  So, when it comes to taking photos, light isn’t a problem.  And, I have a pretty nice camera, a tripod and other equipment.  Even so, I can’t seem to get good photos of my work.  I see pictures of other weaver’s work all the time, and they tend to look great.  Let’s just say that mine kind of have that homemade look.  The problem is partly colors and surface textures.  My work table has a semi gloss finish on it, so I always have to work around reflections and glare.  The floor produces some glare, too, but not as bad.  The problem there is the floor is a sort of brick red.  Modern cameras always want to assist you by helpfully correcting the colors for you and that red really messes up all the other colors.  Although I finally figured out how to overcome the camera’s helpfulness, the red just doesn’t look appealing as a photo background.  The mosaic studio next door has white vinyl flooring.  It’s a fine floor, but it’s pretty shiny and looks kind of sterile in photos.

Back at the house, we have traditional wood flooring that is fairly neutral.  In addition, we have an eclectic mix of funky and sort-of antique furniture that might make for a good setting.  I rolled up the carpet and set up a nice chair with a bookshelf as the background. Now, that’s a photo.  Probably not professional level, but it suits me fine.

Rug with chairThe globe wanted in the action, so I put him in there, too.  Normally, the sun would be beating through, but today was cloudy, so that I had perfect conditions.

This rug is a full-blown version of one of the samples I did back in February and has worked its way up the the top of my favorites list.  It uses a tapestry technique called compensated inlay.  As with many of my projects, there were problems along the way and I had to un-ply about a hundred yards that I had previously wound together.  But, it would have added more colors to the background, and I particularly like the rug as it is.  So, extra work, but better results.

Rug 44 square

Rug 44 Fringe

 

Up Next: my Spring “vacation”

 

 

Yarn Stash – part 3: Bulky Heathered Yarn

Is that what you call it?  I don’t know.  It’s really less a heather than it is kind of a random mix of things.  Not even sure how I acquired it.  Made for a pretty nice-looking rug, even if I do have some concerns about how well it will wear.

Bulky yarn rug

There were flecks of different colors throughout the yarn that gave the finished product a sense of texture and depth.  On closer examination, it started to look like someone swept up everything that was on the floor of the mill – and I do mean everything, fiber or not – and spun it into a super bulky, fluffy yarn.  I’m not even sure it’s all wool. There were what might be feathers, cotton, bits of string, plus a generous helping of burrs and pokey stickery things.  Although, to be fair, wool is known for having leftover “vegetable matter” from whatever the sheep were rolling around in before they were sheared.  Typically, some of that gets missed in the cleaning of the wool.  And things inadvertently get sucked in the the spinning process – I once pulled out a long string of plastic several inches long twisted into some yarn.  But for this yarn, there was more than the normal amount of VM so that while weaving, I kept a pair of tweezers handy to pick out anything that might stab someone on their delicate bare feet.

removing the burrs

Continue reading

Yarn Stash – part 2: Herdwick Wool

This rug uses Herdwick wool yarn I bought in Cumbria, England when Mrs. Daylight and I were visiting in 2006.

Herwick Wool Rug

It is from the Herdwick breed of sheep.  I never used this yarn because I kept wanting to save it for something special, or that I deemed myself not yet worthy.  So I finally decided to just make something with it already.  The wool is tough and somewhat bristly, and maybe not so good for a scarf, but great for a rug.

Herdwick wool texture

While the colors are obviously dyed, the light and dark grays are the natural color of the wool.

Herdwick wool colors

Hand dyed yarnI used a plain weave because that’s what’s was ready on the loom, and because the design can be simple, highlighting the texture of the yarn.  I did add a section using a tapestry technique called “clasped wefts” and a simple design element.  I have to remember that curves and clasped wefts are not friends – I had to un-weave about 2 inches of rug and re-weave it to get it just how I wanted.

The yarn is probably hand-dyed, as you can see the variations in color in the orange section.  To me, that makes it more personal and unique.

Detail of the curve section.  Subtle, but I like subtle.

Clasped Weft detail

Next Up:  probably another rug.

Plain Weave Continues

This is the second of a series of plain weave rugs.  I have three more rugs to this series, one off the loom and almost complete, one on the loom now, and one whose design is still to be determined.

This rug is similar to the other color-blending rug I finished back in May, but a little more subtle.  In the other rug, I was trying to use up some of the blah colors that I have.  For this rug, I was trying to use colors that I see during a sunset or sunrise, or in this case, maybe both?

Rug 38.05

Here it is under construction.

Rug 38.01

I was really excited when I started, and for some reason less so as I went along.  Once I took it off the loom, though, I was happy with the result.  I think maybe I get focused on just what’s in front of me while I weave, and don’t envision the work as a whole.

Up next:  fancy yarn. Well, different anyway.