I was unraveling a knitted blank this afternoon, cursing all the way, because either I’m knitting up the blanks wrong or 20/2 tencel is too weak to be used in knitted blanks. It tends to “catch” at the end of each row, and needs to be carefully unsnagged before proceeding. That makes for very slow winding of weft bobbins, and lots of knots in the weft. Very unpleasant and frustrating to work with. But unfortunately necessary, since I need a cellulose fiber for the burnout….
…hey, waitaminnit! This is the background fabric! I don’t have to use a cellulose fiber, because nothing gets burned out!
Which means, of course, that I can toss the tencel to one side and go back to my mainstay, 30/2 silk. Which is much stronger, and less apt to break when unraveling knitted blanks. Woo hoo hoo!
The next question is what to do with the warp currently on the loom. Thriftiness suggests that I weave it off, because it is beautiful, and I put a lot of work into knitting and dyeing the weft blanks. Impatience, and efficiency, says, “Cut the darn thing off – you have no use for the stuff currently on the loom, and therefore any time you put into it will be a loss.” I have not yet made a final decision but am leaning towards cutting it off, mostly because unraveling the 20/2 tencel knitted blanks is so tedious and unpleasant. If weaving it up were more enjoyable, I’d probably finish it off just for the sheer pleasure of watching the fabric take shape on the loom; but as it is, I may skip the additional frustration and move on.
Unfortunately, switching fibers means…yes, you guessed it…MORE sampling! I was so tired of sampling and here I am, doing it again. This time I need to figure out what the take-up and shrinkage on the warp is. Here’s the puzzle: if I need the finished panel to be 50 inches long, how much warp should I wind for it? Normally this is not a problem – you simply weave about 15-20% more fabric than you think you’ll need – but in this case I need an exact length for each panel, so I need to know the precise amount of shrinkage and take-up. I also need to know exactly how much weft is needed, so I can knit up a blank to match the precise size of the panel.
Oh yeah, and the color changes in the blank need to match the color changes in the painted warp, more or less. It’s enough to make a girl toss her hands up in despair.
But wait! I can solve most of those woes in a single sample. 24″ wide, 4 yards long, warp painted to my best guess at the correct panel length. Weave a one-inch header to debug the warp. Measure the weft take-up by unweaving five or ten picks and measuring the amount of weft used for those 5-10 picks. Then mark the fell line, and use a permanent marker to mark off a line on the warp at 60″ from the fell. Start measuring the fabric from the first mark to the permanent marker. 60″ (original warp length) minus the length of the woven fabric = warp take-up. And shrinkage, of course, can be measured in the usual way, by measuring before and after wet-finishing.
A tedious bundle of calculations later, I’ll know exactly what I need, warp and weft, and will be able to start weaving up the Real Thing.
I will let things percolate for another day or so before I move on. I don’t feel emotionally settled about this yet, which is usually a sign that I need to wait a bit. Once I reach an internal consensus, I’ll start working again.
Meanwhile, of course, there is plenty to do. I spent four hours today building shelving for, and reorganizing the garage. Now my candied citrus peels and jams, jellies, etc. are neatly shelved, my dye equipment is organized, and you can actually walk through the garage. There are still quite a few other things to catch up on – clean up the studio, write that article for Handwoven, finish my dress form cover, and so on – enough to keep me occupied while my artistic subconscious mulls next steps.