What I Learned from Eenie Greenie
January 12, 2009
My eenie greenie warp (You’re a hoot, Jane!) was intented to help me make some decisions about a project I planned back in late spring: cottolin-warp baby blankets in a Summer and Winter adaptation of the draft “Four Locked Hearts of America” from A Handweaver’s Source Book. The Source Book is a fantastic volume of old coverlet patterns edited by Marguerite Porter Davison, presented as profile drafts.
Then I developed a back problem which seemed to be related to treadling. The blanket project stayed on hold while I wove scarves on my rigid heddle loom. Finally, I coaxed myself back to the Bergman with the argument that the real purpose of the eenie greenie sample warp was to see if my back problem was definitely related to treadling. If I moved the tabby treadles to the other leg (treadles 7 and 8, the easiest), set myself up carefully, took lots of stretching breaks, and limited how much I wove in a day, would my back flare up again?
The answer was yes. Two weeks and a chiropractic appointment after cutting Eenie Greenie of the loom, My SI joint is still giving me threatening jabs. So that was informative. Also sort of freeing. I know what to expect, and I know it’s not because I’m doing anything wrong. (Which makes sense since I’ve used the same set-up since I started weaving and had no problems until now.) It turns out I’m just the middle-man in a rocky love affair. “No hard feelings, I hope, Back.” “That’s okay, Loom. Stay beautiful!”
This was my first time working from a profile draft, and my first time weaving summer and winter. Leigh’s and Cally’s posts on summer and winter are wonderfully clear and to-the-point. I reread them several times: I don’t have weaving software, and with overshot drafts the pattern repeats are so long I wasn’t about to attempt full draw downs on paper; I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing. In the same spirit I revisited the summer and winter sections in Mary Meigs Atwater’s Shuttlecraft Book of American Handweaving.
There are other advantages in the summer and winter weave. It is possible to change the character of the pattern completely and without re-threading by changing a few knots of the tie-up and altering the treadling to correspond. It is possible, too, to weave all the charming patterns of the old double-woven coverlets on a loom that is not too elaborate for amateur craftsmen. All in all, this is one of the most delightful things known to American weaving.
Clearly a fan! Mary Atwater’s notes on threading and tie-up were easier to follow when I combined them with the information and pictures in Leigh’s and Cally’s posts. She makes a number of sensible remarks:
The weave is beautifully logical and is far easier to thread and weave than ordinary overshot work.
This was very true. No threading mistakes. Although…
A different texture results from throwing the A tabby between pairs, and it is necessary to watch carefully in order not to make a shift in the middle of a piece of work. This has a very bad effect.
Once I had woven off the sample warp, I kept hearing the words, “This has a very bad effect,” echoing in a dry tone of voice. The fiendish part is just how easy it is to make this mistake! As you may guess from the difference between my first picture (face) and second picture (back), when you are weaving, it’s really hard to see that you’ve thrown the wrong tabby. A pick of the incorrect tabby looked pretty much the same to me as a pick of the correct tabby on the face of the web. Each of those glaring skips you see in the second picture came from throwing just one wrong tabby.
As to weft, Atwater advises,
As usually woven, four pattern-shots and four tabby-shots are thrown for each unit of the pattern. It is therefore necessary to select warp and weft carefully so that the figures will be of good proportion–neither squatty nor too long drawn out. The warp and pattern-weft should be of about the same grist and the tabby thread should be a great deal finer.
The one thing I don’t like about summer and winter is the muddied look it can get when the tabby weft is too visible. For the baby bankets I knew I would want a pretty thick weft, which meant I would use the “brick” treadling as opposed to pairs (x’s or o’s) and thus avoid “long drawn out” figures. The brick treadling tends to hide the tabby pretty well. I wasn’t worried there. But since I was also using the samples as a way to look ahead to some summer and winter towels treadled in pairs, I was eager to see if Atwater’s ratios would be the key to sharpening contrast.
I found that the weft weights and their light/dark values made such a big difference to the overall strength and crispness of the pattern, I ended up trying all kinds of combinations. A medium-value tabby seems to do really interesting things (medium between the warp and the pattern weft). My favorite combination for towels was a tabby of very old light bottle green Lily perle cotton (1930’s or 40’s–they call it #20, but it is finer than a 20/2) which had about 2/3 the “grist” of the 22/2 cottolin; with a 16/2 blue Bockens line linen for pattern weft. It’s the fourth from the top.
Most of the other samples were a little loose at 15 epi, but this one was good–light and flexible. My favorite baby blanket pairing was also good at 15 epi: cottolin tabby with a 8-ply Finnish 50% cotton, 50% linen knitting yarn for the pattern weft. Before washing it has somewhat the texture of a soft string. After a hot water machine wash it makes marvelous cloth! I’m not likely to find any more of that particular yarn on ebay, but I’ve seen similar stuff in a knitting shop, and I do have enough for one blanket. In the picture, it’s the pale strip in the middle of the green samples at the bottom.
The darker green pattern weft there is cottolin, doubled and single, combined with various tabbies. Using a brick treadling (o’s deflect the doubled threads and make the pattern too spotty), the doubled cottolin could also make nice towels with a cotton or linen tabby weft somewhat finer than the warp–this is what you’re seeing directly above the pale baby-blanket strip. I’d set them at 16-18 epi.
Some other things I learned:
The border I planned needs one more unit and a couple of extra repeats to look right.
5/2 mercerized cotton (the aqua, from Goodwill), ick! Pebbly and coarse and distracting in this context. Not a useful cloth.
With a fine cotton tabby, plain old Lily Sugar and Cream knitting yarn makes a surprisingly nice fabric, though I’m not sure how it would hold up to the repeated hot-water washings a baby blanket wants. This combination would also be a nice weight for place mats if it wears well enough. (Top in photo.)
Fluffy Borgs 2/2 cotton (intense violet second from top) is not a good choice for a summer and winter, at least not with the cottolin. It is very soft, but the linty halo worsens summer and winter’s tendency to look muddy.
The dark green sample (third from the top) is Poppana, a bias-cut cotton tape that fuzzes up like chenille when you wash it. This stuff fascinates me. I had visions of little summer and winter Poppana bath mats when I bought it last spring, but as I feared, I can’t really use a poppana shuttle with the Bergman. A) I could barely squeeze it between the top and bottom of the shed and B) I had to weave with my fell WAY further from the beater than works well on my loom. I could feel the beater bearing down on it from from the top, instead of hitting it squarely. This might not have mattered with a different weft, but I really needed to be able to hammer at that Poppana to pack it in, and I couldn’t! Poppana comes in disks, making it easy to handle; it would be a waste to wind it from the disks onto a rag shuttle or quills. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that. Any thoughts?
I suppose the Poppana question is moot if weaving on my Bergman is going to keep hurting my back. I found a forum where someone who had owned many looms remarked that her Bergman loom was much heavier to treadle than other countermarches. This doesn’t surprise me: the stubby lamms, short castle, front-hinged treadles, and all that nice, dense Douglas fir are the culprits; it’s designed for sturdiness and precision rather than mechanical efficiency.
The eenie greenie warp confirms my treadling fears, and what do I do? I immediately wind an 8-yard rayon warp for pillow tops and a couple of stoles in “Four Locked Hearts.” It’s pre-sleyed and ready to beam on now. Apparently I am in denial.