Thursday, March 20, 2014

Should Towels Be Hemmed Before or After Washing?

Regarding wet-finishing handwoven towels before or after hemming, here is my rationale for doing hemming after washing.

I always wet-finish before touching my fabric with an iron for the following reasons. Wet finishing removes the spinning oils, allows shrinkage to take place and also fills in the spaces between the threads when the yarn softens with the washing. 

It allows the threads to move, especially with lace and waffle type weaves and with any weaves that were irregularly sett in the reed, the threads will move to fill in the spaces making the reed lines disappear.  Shrinkage quite often occurs during the wet-finishing process.  If hems are done before washing, they become puckered when the fabric shrinks.  I would want all of the above to take place before doing my hems.

Even with washing first, some reed lines may still be faintly visible, as the center towel shows.

Part of the wet finishing process is finishing your cloth with a hard press and that is not the same thing as ironing.  Ironing is gliding the iron over the surface of the cloth.  Hard pressing is exactly that--pressing hard for several seconds without gliding the iron.

 I hard-press my partially dry towels either with my steam press or I cold mangle them straight from the washer on my counter with my marble rolling pin.  I always cold mangle linen because drying it in the dryer can take away the beautiful sheen and make the threads appear dull.

What the hard press or cold mangling does is set the threads in the fabric, creating a memory for those threads. It makes it a little bit harder for the fabric to unravel and move in the weave.  By pressing a hem in first before wet finishing, irregularities such as reed marks that are there before wet finishing will be made permanent.  Those irregularities become the memory of the fabric and more than likely will not wash out with wet finishing later.

I sometimes wash all the towels I've made without separating them, but more than likely I will separate them with the serger because I have used colors that I wouldn't want to bleed onto another towel.  I try to use dye fast yarns, but occasionally one isn't as fast as was claimed by the seller.  I hate those kinds of surprises!

This is an example of before and after washing.  Notice how the purple bled, changing the white yarn into a lighter purple.  If I had not cut the three towels apart and washed them separately, the small sample at the end would have ruined the two other towels.


Another reason to separate a long row of towels is that they can get twisted in the washer and dryer and that will often permanently set wrinkles into the fabric.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Weaver's Delight Experiment is Done

The experiment with weaving cloth on my Weaver's Delight automated rug weaving loom is done and I am pleased with the results.  The warp of slightly more than five yards yielded five towels and a small sample.

I learned that I can weave with yarn using the big wooden shuttle and pirns.  For simple twill or plain weave, this loom works well.  I do need to work on an even beat though.  The beater is so heavy, I found it was very easy to overbeat.

Since my dad helped me get the old wooden shuttle repaired, he was the recipient of the first Michigan Tartan from this warp (top left).  My mom always said she doesn't care for plaid, so I gave her the striped one (top middle).  She clarified that today by saying she doesn't like to WEAR plaid.  They are both on display in their kitchen.  Thanks Dad for all your help!
The official Michigan Tartan was designed by Kati Reeder Meek from Alpena.  Information about the tartan can be found here:

After finishing this project, I am anxious to find another tartan to try, although I may do a quick run with tartan stripes like my first towel and weave each towel with just one of the tartan colors.  I'm ready for some one-shuttle weaving!

Weaving The Michigan Tartan on the Weaver's Delight

I took on this experiment to satisfy my own curiosity about weaving cloth on this big fly-shuttle rug loom.  I wasn't acquainted with anyone who had done it, but I had a shuttle especially designed for the loom and yarn, so I decided to try it out.

I was using size 8/2 cotton for the warp.  I knew from previous experience that setting it at 24 ends per inch would be just right for a 2/2 twill.  The sections on the warp beam measure 2" between the pegs, so I calculated 48 ends in each section for a width of 20", equaling 10 sections.  I suspected I would end up wishing I had used 26-28 ends per section, since each peg takes up some of the width.

My pattern for the towels was the Michigan Tartan, found on the Scottish Register of Tartans,
Michigan Tartan
I used the threadcount given for the tartan, decided what was going to be at the starting edge and then made a chart noting the order and number of each color for each section.  Each section had to total 48, so some of the stripes were in two different sections.

I used the bright pink post-a-notes to keep my place and crossed off each color as it was wound.
I only had one cone of each color, so I wound the colors on my warping board, one section at a time. 
As I finished each section, I took it off the board and threaded it through my tension box and wound it onto the warp beam.

I use eight pieces of plastic tubing seen on the pegs to keep the yarn from accidentally going into the sections on either side.
Frequent color changes can be aggravating without a plan.  I figured out quite a while ago that it was a waste of time to tie the color changes together at the first peg.  Now I put tape on the board and tape the beginning of each color below the peg and the end gets taped above the peg.  It makes warping much faster.
 Each section end of the warp gets taped before removing from the tension box so the threads will be in order for threading.  Here are eight of the ten sections prepared.
Before threading each section, the warp is taped to the shuttle race at the front of the loom in a handy spot for picking the next thread.

I threaded the 12 dent reed with two warp ends per space.  When I was done, I knew I was right about needing to wind 26-28 ends per section, because the warp in the ten sections was wider than in the reed.  It wasn't bad enough to do over, and besides, this was all just an experiment, with the spacing included.  Next time I will add more warp ends per section.

 I got everything tied onto the apron rod and wove a small amount to spread the warp.  Note that the lacing from the apron to the rod does not extend much past the width of the towel.  If it was laced to the ends of the rod, the towel would pull on the center and bow the rod.  Keep the lacing the same width as the weaving to avoid tension problems once weaving begins.
The first towel was just one weft color as I worked on adjusting the loom.  I had a lot of broken warp threads as I tried to adjust everything.  The shuttle kept going crooked through the shed from the right side.

I eventually ended up putting a different picker heel on that wasn't as worn as the one I started with.  It did help a lot.  All the warp breakage occurred on the first towel and the first inch of the second towel.  I got a lot of practice repairing warp threads on this big old loom!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Replacing the Paper on Weaving Reeds

I came across a reed today that I had replaced the paper coverings on the edges with masking tape.  I knew when I did the repair that it probably wouldn't last long, since masking tape tends to get brittle pretty quickly.

The tape was not sticking, so I decided to try gluing it back down with Tacky Glue.  It sort of worked, but not entirely to my satisfaction because it rippled a bit and I had to keep pushing on it to make it stay. 

I started looking for something else that was thin to try instead and decided to try parchment paper, the type used for covering baking sheets.  It is found in the grocery near the wax paper and foil.

I cut a small test piece, enough to wrap around from front to back, put some glue on the paper, folded it together to smear the glue around and then wrapped it around the edge of the reed.  It stuck with no trouble, created a few wrinkles which I was able to remove and then I left it to dry.

I checked it a few minutes ago and it is firmly glued to the reed edge with no indication that it is going to peel off the reed. 

This is definitely the way to go to replace old flaking paper covers. It is inexpensive, thin, easy to cut with a rotary cutter and ruler, will actually stick, and looks like the repair should last for a long time. 

An added bonus is the remainder of the parchment paper can be used in the kitchen.  I love using it because I dislike trying to get baked-on grease off my cookie sheets.  I never have to do that when I use the paper.