When working with fine threads for the first time, it's good to start with a narrow warp, so you don't get overwhelmed by the number of threads and tension issues.
This bookmark in Summer and Winter is woven with sewing thread and embroidery floss. It's a great first project for weavers interesting in working finer.
I'll show you how to get consistent tension with fine threads using standard weaving equipment.
For more information about how I handle wide warps in fine threads (such as 220/2 silk) see Weaving with Fine Threads.
In the next issue of WeaveZine, I'll discuss Summer and Winter (in its traditional variations) and Taqueté, a weft-faced weave. The project in that article will use the same threading and sett as these bookmarks.
In this project you will create a bookmark and become more familiar with how to manage fine threads.
- An eight-shaft loom. A table loom works well for this project.
- 12- or 15-dent reed
- Raddle (Optional. You can use a reed to spread the warp, though it's a bit more work.)
- Two small shuttles or knitting bobbins.
White cotton/polyester-blend sewing thread (100% cotton sewing thread is not strong enough to use as warp.) Wind sixty-four ends at least two yards in length.
45 to 48 ends per inch (epi).
Two colors of embroidery floss. Use a single strand of white for tabby weft, and three strands of red for pattern weft.
Summer and Winter.
Note: These first two drafts show the weave structure with a direct tie-up (also known as lift-plan mode) where shaft 1 is always raised by lever 1, shaft 2 by lever 2, and so on. These are the drafts you should use with a table or computerized loom. The drafts for treadle looms follow.
Note: The following two drafts show the tie-up and treadling that you'd use with a treadle loom. You can see in the draft for the Heart pattern why this project really shines on a table (or dobby) loom; to weave the Summer-and-Winter Heart, you'd need 18 treadles!
The Flower pattern is more treadle-loom friendly, it can be woven with only ten treadles, which most eight-shaft looms have.
[Editor's Note: Most weaving software will let you switch between direct and treadling tie-ups with the click of a button. I have included both versions of the WIF file for users of software without this feature.]
Planning the Raddle Cross
First, consider the raddles or reeds you have available. I have a 12–dent raddle and plan to beam this warp at 48 epi. Therefore I will sley four ends per dent in my 12–dent raddle to equal 48 epi on the beam. If you are using a 15–dent raddle or reed, sley three ends per dent for a 45 epi warp. The difference between 45 and 48 epi is negliable for this project.
Figuring out your sett before you wind the warp is important because the ends per dent in the raddle is the number of threads you will wind together in the raddle cross.
A raddle cross is a second cross at the end of the warp. It is formed similar to the thread-by-thread threading cross at the front of the warp except that instead of changing the cross after each thread, you change it after a group of threads. The number of threads in each group is equal to the number of threads you will put in each dent of the raddle.
For efficiency, I will wind the warp with a warping paddle. This enables me to wind several threads at once. I'm going to use four spools of white cotton/polyester-blend thread in my paddle, so I will automatically have a group of four ends per raddle cross as I create my warp. For this project, because the warp is short, I will use my warping board. For long warps I prefer a warping mill, see Weaving with Fine Threads for more details.
Note: The draft calls for 60 working ends. I am going to warp an extra four ends which I will use to double the selvedge threads on either side of the warp. I do this to add strength to the selvedges when working in fine threads.
Mount the four spools on a spool rack so they will easily reel off as you wind the warp.
If you do not have a spool rack, you can improvise one by running a knitting needle through a shoebox.
Thread the four ends through four holes in a warping paddle, tying the four ends together.
Slip the thread around the first peg of the warping board. I often tape this knot to the warping board just ahead of the first peg, so the knot doesn't slip out of place.
Holding the warping paddle in your right hand, move the ends over the first peg. Using the fingers of your free hand, pick up the upper thread closest to you, bring it down to cross it with the lower thread closest to you. Repeat this with the other two threads in your warping paddle. Transfer this thread-by-thread cross to the pegs. Remove your fingers.
Wind a two-yard warp. Use three pegs on the side or bottom of your warping board to create the raddle cross. Since the number of ends in your paddle is the same as in your raddle cross, you do not need to pick the cross as you did above. Simply cross the entire group of warp ends in the paddle with the entire group coming back after you go around the last peg.
Since your raddle cross contains four ends, this makes counting the warp ends easier. With each complete pass (beginning, end, and return) you will add eight ends to your warp. You want 64 ends, so you will need a total of eight complete passes. It is much easier to count eight sets of grouped threads in the raddle cross than to count 64 individual strands of sewing thread.
Once you've wound your warp, tie the group of four ends together by the threading cross peg. Both knots should be at this beginning peg.
Tie "trouble-ties" in the loops at both ends of the warp, and at all the crosses.
Slip the warp from the threading cross end off of the pegs and begin "chaining" it until you come to the raddle cross.
At this point firm-up the chain "knot" so it will not slip. Slip a set of lease sticks in the raddle cross and tie them together. I have holes in the ends of my lease sticks and tie them together with shoelaces.
Attach the raddle to your loom. (I tie the raddle in front of my castle with shoelaces.)
Slip the end of the warp with the raddle cross onto the warp-apron rod. (Note: If your loom does not make it easy to remove this rod, you can slide the warp loop onto a dowel and lash it to the back rod with cording.)
Secure the lease sticks in front of the raddle. I like to attach the lease sticks to the raddle with rubber bands, so I can move them back and forth to find tangles and remove them before I break ends. Remove the trouble ties in the raddle cross.
Find the center of your raddle and center your warp.
Put a rubber band on the teeth of the raddle to indicate where to begin sleying the raddle. Drop each raddle cross into a dent in the raddle.
Finish sleying the raddle or reed. If you are using a raddle, secure the ends by putting a rubber band and/or the reed cap above them.
Connect the warp-apron rod to the warp apron and begin winding the warp onto the warp beam. I recommend using paper to separate layers of warp on the warp beam. (Note: You can beam fine threads without a warp separator, but you have to use high tension, see Weaving with Fine Threads for details.)
Use the raddle lease sticks to smooth out the warp before you wind it, and untangle any tangles you encounter.
When the warp has been beamed, remove the raddle cap.
Using a Reed Instead of a Raddle
If you don't have a raddle (or one that is fine enough for these threads), you can use a reed to spread the warp during beaming. To do so, pull four loop ends (one group in the raddle cross) through a dent. Sliding the threads past each other may cause a bit of a tangle, but it shouldn't be too bad with only 64 warp ends. Insert the apron rod through the end loop as you sley each group through the reed.
Transferring a Cross Behind the Reed
When you use a reed instead of a raddle, you need to know how to transfer your crosses from the front of the reed to the back (since you can't just lift up a cap and remove the reed the way you can with a raddle.)
- Lift the top group of threads nearest the reed in your cross. These are the threads that are going over the top of the lease stick closest to the reed. This creates a "shed" behind the reed. Make sure it is open and clear.
- Holding this shed open, remove the lease stick nearest the reed and reinsert that lease stick into the shed you created behind the reed.
- Lift the top group of threads over the second lease stick. This creates a second shed behind the reed. Check to make sure that this second shed is "crossed" with the first one you transferred behind the reed.
- Remove the second lease stick and insert it into the second shed you just created behind the reed.
- Tie the lease sticks together to protect your transferred cross.
Threading the Loom
Insert a set of lease sticks in your threading cross.
Note: In the following pictures, the red lease sticks are in the threading cross and the brown lease sticks are in the raddle cross.
Remove the raddle cap and lift the warp up out of the raddle teeth. Remove the raddle from the loom. It is no longer needed.
Note: If you are using a reed instead of a raddle, this is the point where you would transfer the raddle cross to the back of the reed.
Move the raddle cross to the back beam and secure with shoelaces.
Move the threading cross to behind the heddles you are preparing to thread.
Note: If you have used a reed instead of a raddle, you will need to transfer your threading cross to the back of the reed. You do this in exactly the same manner as you transferred the raddle cross.
Secure the threading cross lease sticks behind the castle. (I tie them to the castle with shoelaces.)
|NOW cut the ends of your threading loop. By waiting until the last possible minute to make this cut, you have ensured that your ends are all the same length, and haven't had a chance to shift position.
Note: If you have been using a reed instead of a raddle, pull the cut ends out of the reed. Set the reed aside temporarily. You will need it again during sleying.
Find a comfortable position to thread. If you are at ease, you are less likely to make threading errors. With some looms, you can remove the beater and/or breast beam to better reach inside. I find it easiest to thread with the heddle eyes at my eye level.
Count out your heddles, making sure you have enough heddles on each shaft. For this project, you need 15 heddles on shafts one and two; 12 heddles on shaft three; 4 heddles on shafts four, five, six, and seven; and only 2 heddles on shaft eight.
You will only be threading this draft once. It is easiest to spread out the pattern heddles (all but those on shafts one and two) before you begin threading. This will help you keep track of where you are in the threading.
I move the heddles on shafts one and two across the heddle-bars as I need them.
Use the end-on-end threading cross on your lease sticks behind the castle to thread your draft. Give them a gentle tug, and you should be able to read which thread is the next one to take off of the lease sticks.
Thread the heddles according to the draft provided. After each group of four ends, move the group to the side and secure them with a clothespin.
This prevents them from unthreading as you reach for the next threads. Once all of the threads have been threaded, tie them together in a slipknot.
Replace the beater and reed if they were removed during threading. It is easier to sley the reed if it is tied to the loom frame, so it doesn't move.
If you have a 12-dent reed, sley four ends per dent (48 epi). If you are using a 15-dent reed then sley three ends per dent (45 epi).
Note: Don't forget to double the last two threads on either selvedge.
Beginning at one selvedge, take the group of threads in four dents, pull them evenly tight (tension) and tie them in a firm overhand knot.
Continue tying the groups of four dents until you've completed all of the ends.
Select a strong, smooth lacing cord such as a braided nylon. Tie one end of the cord to the cloth-apron rod. Beginning at one selvedge, lace this cord through the center of the first warp group (four dents worth of ends tied in a slip knot) and around the warp apron rod.
Continue lacing until all of the warp groups are laced to the rod. Make sure the warp groups are under even tension and tie the cord to the apron rod.
If the tension isn't quite even, you can adjust the tension without untying the lacing. Simply pull on the cord between warp bundles to tighten or loosen the tension on each bundle.
Remove your threading lease sticks.
With this narrow warp, whether or not you leave in your raddle cross during weaving is up to you. With wider warps I leave them in.
If your lacing cord is a bit longer than needed, you can weave the loose end as a header using the Summer and Winter tabby (aka: plain weave).
You create tabby for Summer and Winter by raising shafts 1 and 2 for the a–tabby and shafts 3,4,5,6,7, and 8 for the b–tabby.
Beginning to Weave
After you've woven your header in plain weave, insert a narrow strip of folded adding-machine tape or cardboard. This creates a little area of fringe at the top and bottom of the bookmark. Insert this narrow strip on tabby. Beat gently, so you don't crush the paper strip.
For the tabby weft, use a single strand of white embroidery floss and, for the pattern weft, use three strands of red embroidery floss. A high contrast between the tabby and pattern weft makes the pattern design more distinctive. Since this warp is so narrow it's easier to weave using small shuttles, or knitting bobbins.
Start with both shuttles on the same side of the warp. With "Summer and Winter Alternate" you shouldn't need to cross your wefts at the selvedges to catch the edge threads when you weave.
Begin your bookmark with four shots of tabby weft.
Follow the draft for the eight-shaft Heart pattern from the bottom of the draft. Read the treadling shafts on the right side of the draft along with the color of the weft. Begin with the pattern weft followed by the tabby shot. It will be easier to begin with the heart, as you can keep track of your pattern shots more easily.
You will soon get into a rhythm of weaving with two shuttles. Every a-tabby will be from one side, and every b-tabby from the other. Be consistent. Lay a straight edge across the draft (starting with the bottom pick) and read the shafts under it. This way, what is showing below the straight edge corresponds to what you have woven on the loom.
While the Flower pattern may seem simpler, keeping track of the number of weft repeat picks is a little harder. When you have finished weaving both drafts, you may continue weaving or finish your bookmark with four tabby shots. If you are going to weave another bookmark, add in a new separator strip of adding-machine tape or cardboard.
I find these warps too fine to hemstitch, so I use a small amount of glue at the beginning and end of the weaving to secure them from unraveling.
The glue I use is Gel Medium. It is available at art supply stores in a paste form. I prefer the medium weight. The lighter weight has more water in it and "bleeds" through the cloth. The heavier makes the cloth less flexible. It does change the color of the cloth on the back a bit.
Lillian Whipple has been weaving since 1971. In 1990, she received her COE-W from the Handweaver's Guild of America and is a Master Weaver. Her in-depth study was "By a Fine Silk Thread."
Her main focus has become weaving small art pieces, clothing, and inserts for note cards woven in fine silk thread using complex structures. Since 1994, she's been weaving and giving away tiny handwoven Convergence logos at the conference.
Photo Credit: All project photos by Grey Whipple.