Tuesday, April 02, 2013

With a mistake comes success

my Basket weave mistakeLast year I acquired a countermarch Harris Folding Loom, sans instructions (see July 4, 2011 post). This put me on a part-time quest -- between life's tasks and work and other distractions, like knitting -- to figure out how to put it together! Oy, the diagrams for the treadles just did not make sense.

I joined the NY Guild of Handweavers, where I attended a talk by David Van Buskirk — My Weaving Education at Handarbetes Vanners, Stockholm with Age Faith-Ell. It was an inspiring lecture on his time studying weaving in Sweden with Age Faith-Ell, and the place of women in design in the early 20th Century. I spoke with him after, he suggested I take a course at FIT, and that was a game changer.

At first I was skeptical that I would find the key to my loom problems in class. But I put my head down and started weaving again, a series of samples for presentation, due April 2.

  • Plain weave
  • 2/2/ Twill -Right Hand
  • Reversing 2/2 Twill
  • 2/2 Broken Twill
  • 1/3 Filling-faced Twil
  • 3/1 Warp-faced Twill
  • 3/1 Reverse Warp-faced Twill
  • 1/3 Reverse Filling-faced Twill
  • Combination Stripe: 3/1 and 1/3 Twill
  • Basket Weave (oy!)
  • Double Cloth (very cool)
  • Rib Weave (my fav)
  • Basket Weave and Rib Weave
  • Reversing 2/2 Twill in 2 colors
  • Combination Stripe: 3/1 and 1/3 Twill with chenille) and...
  • "Not" Basket Weave…it is a variation of Plain weave! (I actually like it a lot, and a very happy accident)
weaving on Harris Folding Loom

I spent hours getting the sample cards hand lettered and samples cut apart and affixed. Then I discovered a huge mistake… My basket weave sample was WRONG! The weaving did not match the draft chart. Oh no!

With no time to return to the studio and do another (I think I had removed from the studio loom the warp to start the next assignment) I looked at my loom and decided that NOW was the time to conquer the treadle problem. I had to weave another basket weave sample that was the correct structure before class.

I took a deep breath, pulled out all my found-on-the-internet instructions and my scribbles of what I thought the treadle chart meant, got down on the floor and started to make sense of all the sticks and strings. Step one to treadle success. (They probably need some tweaking… but I had to get to the next step of warping on the loom.)

I wound my first very short warp out of old pearl cotton that I had in a stash in the garage (yes, the garage). Took a deep breath and tied it onto the loom, sorted thru 120 thread heddles on 4 shafts with the required POINT DRAW, END AND END and STRAIGHT DRAW as per the original assignment. I prayed that it would work. It did. I wove my first sample on MY loom. I will always remember what BASKET WEAVE is, and how to chart its structure. I am thrilled. With panic I found the courage to face the demons that held me back. I can now start weaving. I am so excited.

Monday, April 01, 2013

What I learned about Harris Tweed at the last NY Guild of Handweavers meeting

Eco-designer Lusmila McColl of McColl & Clan spoke at the March meeting of the NY Guild of Handweavers. What a fascinating and inspiring woman! She relayed the story of Harris Tweed.

to learn more about the fiber drama of the 21st century, watch this 3-part Tweed BBC documentary on Vimeo
Part 1: Trouble Looms - http://vimeo.com/7505746
Part 2: Harassed Tweed - http://vimeo.com/15901604
Part 3: Hanging by a Thread - http://vimeo.com/7669212

Lusmila handed out a flyer: THE PROCESS OF MAKING HARRIS TWEED FABRICS (see below)


The creation of Harris Tweed begins with fleeces of pure virgin wools which are sheared from Cheviot and Scottish Blackface sheep. Although most of the wool is grown principally on the Scottish and UK mainland, in the earl summer the island communities still join together to round up and sheer the local sheep to add to the mix. The tow types of wool are blended together to gain the advantages of their unique qualities and characteristics.

Washing & Dying

Once sheared the wool is scoured before being delivered in large bales to the mills of the main tweed producers where it is dyed in a wide variety of colors for blending.

Blending & Carding

The freshly dyed coloured and white wools are weighted in predetermined proportions and then thoroughly blended by hand to exact recipes to obtain the correct hue. It is then carded between mechanical, toothed rollers which tease and mix the fibers thoroughly before it is separated into a fragile, embryonic yarn.


This soft yarn then has a twist imparted to it as it is spun to give it maximum strength for weaving. The spun yarn is wound onto bobbins to provide the ingredients of weft (left to right threads) and warp (vertical threads) supplied to the weavers.


This vitally important process sees thousands of warp threads gathered in large hanks into a specific order and wound onto large beams ready to be delivered, together with yarn for the weft, to the weavers.


All Harris Tweed is hand woven on a treadle loom at each weaver's home usually a single width Hattersley loom or newer double-width Bonas-Griffith loom. The weaver will arrange hundreds of heddles to a specified pattern before the beam of warp yarn is tied to the loom by hand.

The weaver will then set up the weft threads, pulling bobbins of yarn through a series of guides to be woven into the warp threads by flashing "rapier" or shuttle. Once ready, the weaver begins to weave, always observing, correcting, mending and amending their creation until complete. All Harris Tweed is woven by hand, using a manually powered loom driven by a simple pedal mechanism.


The tween then returns to the mill in its "greasy state" and here it passes through the hands of darners who correct any flaws.

Once ready, the cloth is finished. Dirt, oil and other impurities are removed by washing and beating in soda and soapy water before it is dried, steamed, pressed and cropped.


The final process is the examination by the independent Harris Tweed Authority who visits the mills weekly, before application of their Orb Mark trademark which is ironed onthe fabric as a seal of authenticity.


Harris Tweed Authority: http://www.harristweed.org