I spent all day yesterday weaving samples, mostly to see how the animal images would weave up. Here’s what I produced:
The bottom samples are from my initial attempt. As you can see, the owl now looks whiter than in the previous version, which is great! But the first African wild dog (left) looks a bit like a tall pig, and the dragon (right) is barely legible. So I decided to substitute a different dog photo, and to troubleshoot the dragon. An hour or two later, I had the design for the top sample. (The dragon, it turned out, was a colossally dumb mistake on my part: I had plugged in a 7-1 satin structure where I should have plugged in a 1-7 satin, reversing my colors so the brightest gold sections came out nearly black.)
I’m now satisfied with the animals. I don’t have time to weave more samples, as (per my calculations) it will take me about eight hours of weaving time to finish the 4,320 picks for the finished piece. That isn’t including time for all the fiddly stuff that needs to be done from time to time, so figure more like 10-11 hours for the finished piece. Since I don’t want to be weaving frantically all day Saturday, and I’ll have some finishing work to do after the piece is woven, that means I need to start weaving the final piece now.
To prepare for this, yesterday night I started winding the weft yarns onto bobbins. Two of the weft yarns are simple 10/2 cotton, and took about fifteen minutes to prepare. The third one is the real gold thread…and oy vey! It is a diva of yarns, and it sure knows it. It is a very unbalanced thread, meaning it’s prone to twisting back on itself, producing pigtails that are difficult to remove without damaging the yarn, because the surface is pretty rough and catches on itself. It’s basically a very fine, flat strip of paper (?) coated with gold and wrapped in a spiral around a tough core thread. So if it catches on itself, it’s easy to shift the wrapping gold thread, exposing the core thread, which of course you don’t want. It is a pain to work with, and absolutely the only reason I’m putting up with it is that it is (a) beautiful and (b) a fitting tribute for a good friend.
Because the gold thread is difficult to work with, the makers packaged it very carefully. It comes in small, tightly wrapped packages, each containing ten tiny skeins. The skeins are attached to each other at the top, so the package is actually one continuous thread, just wrapped into ten skeins. Each skein is carefully tied in two places with a twist of paper. Nobody in their right minds would package a cheap synthetic yarn this meticulously, so unless it’s a deliberate counterfeit (which I think is unlikely), it’s the real deal.
Here’s the package of yarn, neatly wrapped and tied:
And here’s a picture of the unwrapped skeins, showing how they’re joined at the tops:
The paper twists to the right are holding the opposite ends of the skein.
Of course, just to be difficult, the skeins are too small to be held on anything but a barely-open umbrella swift, and the umbrella swift keeps collapsing inward no matter how tightly I fasten it, requiring constant adjustment.
But looking at the result in the samples, it’s totally worth it. So I have been meticulously unwinding the skeins, and winding them onto tiny quills (thin paper cylinders, not goose feathers!) for use in my lone boat shuttle. The prima donna, of course, couldn’t possibly be satisfied with what I normally use, so I’m using a boat shuttle for the first time in years. (The yarn is twisty, springy, and inclined to knot back on itself, making it a nightmare in the end-feed shuttles I typically use.)
Off to weave!