Yarn Samples and a Book

August 16, 2008

A while ago I made a little resolution that I will always plan and wind the warp for my next project while my current project is still on the loom.  Once my warp is wound, it feels like the job of warping is half done–an illusion, I know.  I play a lot of little tricks like that on myself.  It’s surprising I haven’t gotten wise to them!

I may not be half done when I’ve wound the warp, but with the reeling and beaming problems I’ve had in the past, those are the parts of warping that intimidate me.  Like an omelet: that moment when you decide it’s time to turn it over or it will burn, and it all comes apart if you haven’t got the heat and the pan and the filling right (I tend to overfill).  Once you’ve turned it over, successfully or unsuccessfully, setting the table and serving it up is easy.  So far I actually like threading and sleying.  They take longer but there’s no stress involved.  Winding and beaming are easier to face if I don’t have to face them both at the same time.

That said, I only just finished the second scarf on my navy merino scarf warp, but I have been spending a lot of time planning my next project.  First a sample warp, for which I have the thread, but then I get to buy some!

So, I finally placed an order to Vävstuga, something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.

There is something so neat and potential-filled about sample cards.  When I took them out of the package, these gave me the same feeling as the oil pastel sticks lined up in a box of Cray-Pas when I was a kid.  Unfortunately, when I tried to start using them to compare colors, I realized that they were not very functional.  In tight rows you can’t use the samples as swatches.  Not only to the colors confuse each other through juxtaposition, 3 square centimeters simply isn’t enough color for my eyes to make sense of.  They are okay for matching.  If I can find a piece of clothing or a book jacket with the color that interests me, I can hold it up to the cards and find the nearest color; but since the match isn’t exact, I can’t dependably take that piece of clothing and hold it against another thread sample to see if it goes.

I’m not quite at the point of cutting the cards into strips and making a cardboard window to separate the colors.

Vävstuga’s regular Bockens sample book had been backordered a long time with no guarantee as to when more would arrive, which is why I bought the separate sample cards.  Does anyone know if the proper Bockens sample book gives you more yarn in a more useful configuration?

The other thing in my package:

I had been thinking of buying The Praktisk Vävbok for a long time.  Seeing it advertised over and over again in my 80’s copies of Väv must have pushed me over.  It is a nicely made book, a clean facsimile (all in Swedish) of one published in 1899.  I enjoy the homey assumption that weavers want to use their cloth for everyday home sewing.  The drafts are named to purpose like “Children’s Clothing,” or “Upholstery,” or “English Hand-towel Material.”  Another good thing about the book is that most of the patterns are for 8 shafts, probably because it is an old book which assumes that you are using a counterbalance–there are smaller sections for fewer shafts, but none for more than 8.  This focus is uncommon in Scandinavian weaving books.  Usually more space is given over to either 4-shaft patterns or 10-and-upwards.

Which brings me to my problem.  Most of the patterns are traditional 8-shaft plain and fancy twills.  I already have the same or similar patterns scattered through my other Scandinavian weaving books or in Edward Worst.  They are are all very Swedish looking–small all-over patterns familiar from old table linens.  It’s nice seeing them in one place, laid out compactly with a spot black-and-white photograph of the cloth right next to the draft, but for a reference book I would really want something more exhaustive with better photos, like Helene Bress’ The Weaving Book, which I have been missing ever since I left it behind at the public library where we used to live (and which I probably shouldn’t even mention here, for fear of driving the price up even further!).

Still, I like the fact that The Praktisk Vävbook features the 8-shaft versions of these twills.  It’s not too big, pleasant to hold, and it has the further advantage of not making my nose stuff up and my my throat and eyes itch.  I got most of my old Scandinavian weaving books as a lot on ebay, from a weaver’s estate.  They had been sitting in a shed or something for a long time and grown musty.  Which is bad enough.  But the real problem was that the over-zealous ebay dealer though it would be a good idea to mask the mustiness by putting them in a sealed container with a chemical air freshener for several days (I know this because I asked her).  I aired them in the sun repeatedly, but the reek is tenacious.

And now a little cord update:  I looked into the smaller size of Texsolv tie-up cord Susan told me about after the Texsolv post, but according to the nice people at Woolhouse Tools, the smaller cord is a really, really small gauge, and not strong enough for lamm or treadle tie-up.  The buttonholes have the same 12 mm spacing as the regular cord, which won’t help with fine adjustments.  The Woolhouse people suggested I loop the cord back through itself to adjust in smaller increments.  I know what they’re talking about, but I don’t think it can help with a Bergman loom because of the way the cords go to cup hooks rather than through holes in the lamms.  I will fiddle with the cords and the pegs some more when I do my next tie-up.  There may be some configuration of Texsolv and peg I haven’t thought of.

This would be a lot easier with a trained monkey.  Smaller fingers.  Fits under the loom.

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Swedish Serendipity

July 17, 2008

I was a slow taker when it came to the internet.  I can boast that I was able to get clear through college (in 1999) without ever having had to do an internet citation, the same way my aunt can boast she graduated without ever having typed a paper on anything but a typewriter in the early 80’s.

For some things though, it’s perfect.  Like weaving.  You would think with my love of the obscure I would have got a lot more excited about the possibilities of a worldwide public forum a lot sooner.

I’m excited because Margaret Bergman’s great-niece in Sweden found my blog last week!  She sent me a link to an exhibit called Snilleriket that is open this summer.  The exhibit celebrates the local geniuses of a particular lake district in Northwestern Sweden.  On the website you can click on one of the faces in the bar at the top of the page to see a summary of the person’s achievements.  The only woman in the bunch?  Margaret Bergman.

I do think Bergman looms are on the cusp of a little renaissance.  I’m willing to take this Swedish serendipity as proof–although the looms and the wonderful history attached to them are enough by themselves to spark it.

I was curious what the Swedish take on Margaret Bergman would be, so I translated her profile on the Snilleriket website into English.  I haven’t taken it too far from a transliteration, because that’s what I always prefer when a translator isn’t sure of her idioms–and I’m not sure of much in Swedish.  Please forgive any translation mistakes.  I’ll be glad if you can offer corrections.

 

The Lady from Rörön Becomes a Genius in the Art of Weaving, Honored and the Recipient of Awards in America

 

Margareta Olofson was born in 1872 in Rörön south of Sventavik.  Her mother was clever at weaving, and Margareta divided timely modern interest with powerful talent.  Yet when she applied for a weaving course in Östersund she wasn’t accepted.  You see, the extensive admissions examination showed that she was more skillful than the teacher!

In 1901 she emigrated to the Seattle area in the USA to be reunited with her betrothed, John Bergman.  There she became Margaret Bergman and mother to six children, but little by little she worked on John, who was a carpenter, to build a loom.  In this way she entered into a successful career.

The rumors of her skill spread.  She gained standing.  She developed her own patterns.  She invited people over to tell them about and show them her weaving.  She was asked to hold courses around the western USA and Canada.  The culmination, perhaps, was that at 67 years of age she was asked to hold a course for teachers at the United States’ foremost craft school, Penland in North Carolina on the east coast.

In the course of her travels, the need arose for a loom that could be disassembled without the need to take off the warp. So she designed the Bergman Suitcase Loom.  It was little, it could fold when it was set up to weave, and it adapted well for demonstrations.  Her husband John made a little model that was sent with Margaret Bergman’s 1932 patent application.  The larger loom in the picture is her personal loom, and at the same time an example of her other invention, the Double-Folding Bergman Floor Loom.  It was patented in 1936 and manufactured by her son Arthur.  These looms were even manufactured and sold in Sweden by Margaret’s Brother Johan C. Iwald.

Margaret Bergamn passed away in 1948.  The year before, she was honored for her outstanding contribution to the circulation and development of the weaving arts in the United States by the National Weaver’s Congress in Salem, Oregon.  The special quotation of her philosophy that expresses Margaret Bergman’s gladness in life and at the same time a message to all weavers (and others):

”Öppna din hand och dela med dig av vad kan. Av en knuten näve kommer inget gott.”

 

“Open your hand and share what you can.  From a clenched fist comes nothing good.”

Captions:

In the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, Margaret Bergman has her own exhibit. In the plexiglass case to the left stands the model that accompanied the patent application in 1932.

Folded up, Margaret Bergman’s loom doesn’t take up any more space than a piano.

 

*translator’s note:  The Bergmans cleared and settled a farm in what was then a very remote location on the Western Kitsap Peninsula.  Many of her early students came to her by boat.

 

There is one other little biographical article about Mrs. Bergman on the web that I know about, with some different but equally interesting information.  You can find it by visiting the profile of the Kitsap Weaver’s Guild on the the Association of Northwest Weavers Guilds website:

http://www.northwestweavers.org/

The link for the History of the Kitsap Weaver’s Guild will lead you to the Bergman article.

 

I have a confession to make.  Even though I am looking forward to working with some color at the end of my warp, I have been dawdling about getting there.  I don’t really want to be finished, because that means it’s time to get out the warping reel and get frustrated.

Generous readers: help! 

Part of my problem is that I have not found a satisfactory way to beam on.  My old weaving books show Swedish högskola girls in 1940’s wedge sandals and handwoven aprons working in teams of four.  If I had some Swedish high school students I’d use them!  My husband helped me with the last warp, and it was not good for our relationship.  He turned the warp beam while I tried to hold one half of the warp in each hand, put in sticks, shake the threads, and give orders at the same time:  “Stop.  No, go back one notch  Okay.  No.  Wait!  Okay, now.  Nooooo!”

It doesn’t help matters that my warping reel makes one side of the warp ever-so-slightly longer than the other as it climbs the pegs.  I have to compensate for the lopsided tension by combing it as I beam.

 

I’d like a better reel, but I’m afraid the tension problem is endemic to them.  My current reel is similar to the Louet yarn-blocker/warping reel.  It lacks those separate cross-pieces that carry the pegs on Schacht and most other horizontal reels.A Schacht horizontal reel

Yet even with better-positioned pegs, isn’t there is always going to be a tension discrepancy as the plane of the wound warp transfers from the horizontal barrel of the reel to the perpendicularity of the pegs?

Any fellow reelers out there?  I would love to hear your take on this problem.  What sort of reel do you use?  Can you wind an evenly tensioned warp with it?

As for the beaming, I beamed my first few warps by myself when I was warping Swedish-style.  (That’s the back-to-front threading method where you sley the reed twice, using it as a raddle the first time).  The tension wasn’t too bad, and frankly I can’t remember how I managed it!  I was using 15-dent reed, so that might have helped–the friction as the yarn pulled through.

But then I bought a bendy quarter-inch Glimåkra raddle.  I tried it on both the front and the back beams with poor results and some bad ol’ times with my beaming partner.  Fortunately, they were forgiving warps.  (Fortunately, I have a forgiving spouse.)

I’m about to wind a new warp.  It’s fine wool–not too wide, but long.  And you know, I’m afraid the original owner of my loom was right.  In a handwritten note with her warping instructions, Mrs. S-G declared to her granddaughter, “This is the way I warped a loom. . .This is the simplest and best way to warp no matter what anyone says about it.  I can put a 45” warp on a loom with no one helping, which I preferred to do.”

So I’ve given in.  My loom is Swedish.  Designed by a Swede, built by Swedes.  Okay!  I’ll dress it like a Swede, for Pete’s sake!  I’ll follow your directions to the letter Mrs. S-G.  Unfortunately you don’t say how you kept your tension.

On Bergman looms the main warp beam rests in the castle, a little higher up than the back beam.  If I’d thought logically about this fact, I’d have known a raddle wasn’t the way to go.  But I wasn’t thinking logically.  I was thinking that I didn’t want to sley the whole warp twice.  After struggling to lay my warps in an open raddle without accidentally lifting a piece of them out again or knocking the rod out of the loops and onto the floor, I’m not going to mind the extra sleying so much.  I now have a rocking chair with arms that are perfect for propping a reed across my lap.  And great plans for some bag clips from IKEA.

The tension problem remains.  I don’t have enough floor to drag the warp across it under weights as Elkhorn Mountain Weaving recommends.  I don’t have a warping trapeze like the Vävstuga folks.  If I were a homeowner, I would hang chains from the ceiling and suspend my warps over a wooden closet-rod.  For now I guess I’ll try the milk jug trick.  It’s just that my beam is so low, I’ll be rehooking them every 12 inches.

Advice is welcome!  Wish me luck.