I’m writing this after four days of whirlwind jacquard study. Friday I drove 180 miles to Sandra Rude’s home in Atascadero, California. I spent Saturday and Sunday studying digital jacquard design with Sandra, driving home on Sunday. Monday morning I left at the crack of dawn to drive 210 miles north to Chico, CA, home of AVL Looms. I spent two intense days at AVL, learning to set up and weave on their Jacq3G. I drove home – another 210 miles – Tuesday night, and – luxury of luxuries! – spent a glorious twelve hours at home before departing again. Now I’m on a plane, flying cross-country to Providence, Rhode Island, to investigate Digital Weaving Norway’s TC-2 jacquard loom at Convergence.
So now I finally have time to blog about the past few days!
I had a great time at Sandra’s, learning how to use Photoshop for designing jacquard-woven cloth. Sandra’s specialty is woven portraits, and she showed me how to use Photoshop and shaded satins/granite weaves to create a woven piece from a digital photo. (Most of the techniques required are covered in Alice Schlein and Bhakti Ziek’s book The Woven Pixel, available as a free digital download from Handweaving.net.) Saturday she walked me through the design process. First we created a simple black and white portrait using shaded satins. Then Sandra showed me how to create Photoshop patterns for more complex structures, starting with weft-backed satin with two wefts. From there we constructed Photoshop patterns for weft-backed satins with three wefts. Sunday I got up before dawn and designed the Poison Ivy image that I discussed in my last blog post, then spent several hours weaving it on Sandra’s AVL Jacq3G. Weaving with three shuttles on an unfamiliar (and somewhat fussier) loom took intense concentration, but it was such fun to see the photo appear as I wove! Here is Poison Ivy before and after wet-finishing:
I had a ton of fun studying with Sandra, and recommend her as a teacher if you are interested in learning digital jacquard design. If you’d like to get in touch with her, her blog is at http://sandrarude.blogspot.com .
I finished Poison Ivy in mid-afternoon, and – mindful of the three-hour drive home – reluctantly packed up and headed home. I had a lovely dinner with Mike, adored the cats, caught up a bit on sleep, and then headed out at 6am for the long drive to AVL Looms. I arrived around 9:30am, and immediately went to work setting up their Jacq3G floor model. I had specifically asked them to leave it bare, as I wanted to see what it was like to set up and weave on. Every loom has its quirks and gotchas, and I wanted to walk through the entire process, so I could better evaluate the loom.
I spent the entire first day winding and beaming the warp, then threading the loom. The warp was only 600 threads, but with unfamiliar equipment (and missing some of my usual tools), it still took me three or four hours to beam on the warp. Then I had to thread the heddles, a tedious process which required reaching way back through each module to draw the threads through the heddle eyes. Fortunately, AVL has a special setup for the Jacquard modules that hold the threads. It’s called Dial-A-Sett, and it allows you to change the angle and spacing of the modules holding the threads. With the Dial-A-Sett system opened to the maximum width, there was enough space to reach the yarns in back.
That said, it was still a lot of work in a cramped space, with arms extended at full length to reach the threads behind the heddles. I can see why most people only thread a jacquard loom once! After that, they tie on to the old warp and just pull through. Threading was quite slow – about forty-five minutes per 120-thread module. After sitting in the loom with my nose up against the heddles for several hours, I was more than happy to (slowly, delicately, and with more than a little wincing) extract my body from the loom and go grab a quick dinner. I then spent the rest of the evening developing a file to weave.
The second day , I finished threading, sleyed the reed, and tied on. There were a few snags along the way – the loom wasn’t quite fully prepped for weaving, so we had to put on a cloth apron (and some extensions for the too-short apron), set up the cloth storage system, and make a few more tweaks before the loom was ready to weave. I didn’t start debugging the warp until around 1pm. Fortunately, there were very few flaws in the threading (and none in the sleying!), and – much to my delight – the loom had no trouble with 60/2 silk, sett at 72 ends per inch – even in plain weave!
I spent the next few hours messing around with the loom, weaving test patterns and getting a feel for the loom. The shed size was considerably larger than on Sandra’s (which was an early model), and the e-Lift was quick, smooth, and quiet. A few hooks misbehaved, but Bob, Tracy, and Kim quickly got them straightened out. I didn’t have time to weave anything of substance, but I wasn’t primarily there to weave on the loom, but to set it up and see how that process worked. (I’d already gotten to weave at Sandra’s.) So I left without a finished piece, but with a very good feel for how to set up and weave on the Jacq3G.
Now I’m on my way to Convergence, where Vibeke Vestby (head of Digital Weaving Norway) and Cathryn Amidei will show me how to design for and weave on the TC-2. I’ll be at Convergence three days, Thursday through Saturday, in the Digital Weaving Norway booth in the Marketplace. If you’re there, stop by and say hi!
And what is going on at home? Well, our first attempt at armoring the toilet paper resulted in this:
Apparently Ms. Tigress is a flexible little kitty when it comes to cat entertainment – while she enjoys a pleasant session of unrolling toilet paper, she is equally content to shred the entire roll at once. Mike has ordered a more robust set of armor so the toilet paper can survive the unequal battle. But for now, the toilet paper lives in the cabinet – fortunately, still within reach.
And here is a photo of our adorable paper shredder, asleep on Mike’s stereo speaker, not a care in the world. Doesn’t she look blissful?