Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Rose Tea & Velvet: Part I

In late April I took a workshop offered by the Portland Handweavers Guild: velvet weaving with Barbara Setsu Pickett. It was intensive and informative; if you enjoy lengthy preparations, slow progress, and sumptuous results, velvet weaving may be for you!

Woven fabric in a very basic form consists of a set of threads on the loom (the warp) and a thread that goes back and forth (the weft). The velvet structure that I wove has two sets of warp threads: a ground warp and a pile warp, which will become the fuzziness. You need LOTS more of the pile warp, so you can't just wind it on the loom with the ground warp.

Each pile warp is actually a bunch of threads. I wove what Barbara calls "macro velvet" which is a larger scale. The pile warp consists of a bundle of twenty sewing threads. There are six of these bundles per inch of weaving width; I needed twenty four for my sample. Each bundle is wound up on a separate bobbin (we used netting shuttles).

I brought blue thread. On a cone, since that has a lot of thread. My brain did not pick up on the fact that we needed twenty...or rather, I assumed I could just wind off twenty spools and wind my bobbins from that. Well, yes, but it takes ages and ages and even more ages. I wound my twenty spools--actually quills, pieces of paper wound into little tubes. And lo, the quills were too small to fit on the spool racks that were available. Fortunately Barbara had thread for us to use; I wound the majority of my bobbins from her thread.

But of course I absolutely refused to abandon the thread that I had so laboriously wound onto quills. At home that night I rigged up my own spool rack with an empty tissue box and an entire multi-pack of double-pointed knitting needles that I fortuitously had on hand, and I wound some bobbins. There is a fabric-covered brick at each end holding it in place (normally they are bookbinding weights) and I threaded the strands between several pegs on my warping board for tensioning as I wound.

It took ***exponentially*** more time to prepare all this than it did to wind the six bobbins I filled. I will not do it this way again. [The picture is not supposed to be sideways but that's how it loaded...]

All of these bobbins have to be organized somehow while you're weaving. That's where the cantra, or bobbin rack, comes in. The pile warps attach to the front of the loom along with the ground warp, and thread through the heddles that will lift them when required, and then each bobbin of the pile warp hangs over the cantra so they don't snag or get tangled during weaving.

I took the previous picture at the workshop before I put in the horizontal rod that brings the pile warp down to the level of the ground warp; you can see the rod added in this picture I took once I had this all set up at home after the workshop ended:

It is advisable to conceal this setup from cats.

[Drat, this picture turned itself around, too.]

As you weave and use up pile warp, the bobbins ride up. Pay attention or they wedge themselves into the cantra...unwind them to release as much more thread as possible, so you don't have to stop weaving quite as often.

This seems about long enough; the next installment will be about weaving, finally, after all this time setting up!


Megan Hodges/Elmsley Rose said...

Aha! Two wefts, one for the pile! Now I understand better.
Apologies for being so quiet/not returning your mail yet - rotten virus that lodged in my ears so I am currently hiding from my Inbox and my stitching is neglected.
I remember our conversation with affection.

Phiala said...

Thanks for the detailed description and photos! Something I will have to try someday...

Laura said...

Megan--hope you got well soon, yuck! And we definitely need to schedule another visit sometime. :)

Sarah--let me know, and I will share even more details!

Part II of the narrative is underway...