I’ve been benchmarking my weaving speed on Lady Ada. The change has been pretty darn impressive.
When I started out, I had to relearn how to weave on a treadle loom. I made a ton of mistakes, and the weaving went correspondingly slowly – about 20 minutes to weave an 10″ wide, 8-inch long sample in 2/2 twill (and the result still looked pretty crappy):
20 minutes for an 8-inch long sample at 30 picks per inch = about 720 picks per hour.
Then my friends Sandi and Kaye came over and tuned up Lady Ada (my 8-shaft Baby Wolf loom) for me. And I switched her from a friction brake to live-weight tension brake. (Live-weight tension provides perfectly even tension on the warp, whereas tension must be manually adjusted on the friction brake, potentially leading to all sorts of tension variations while weaving.)
Here’s the sample I wove yesterday morning (the photo is a little wonky because the sample is still on the loom):
See how much more even the weaving is?
But that’s not the amazing part. The amazing part is that an 8″ long, 10″ wide sample now takes me just over 6 minutes to weave. That works out to 2,250 picks per hour, or 1.6 seconds/pick! (For non-weavers, a pick is a single throw of the shuttle, laying down a single weft thread.) That is a new personal record – my previous best was 1.8 seconds/pick, on my wedding dress. (Admittedly, that was on a 24″ warp, which would naturally take longer.)
My guess is that I can still increase that speed somewhat – there’s some fine-tuning I still need to do. And of course it’s a very simple weave on a very narrow warp. But the idea of being able to weave 75 inches (just over 2 yards, just under 2 meters) of cloth per hour is simply amazing. I could weave off 6 yards of samples (24 samples) in just three hours! Talk about instant gratification.
By way of comparison, I’m also weaving samples for Everett’s stole on Amazing Grace:
Weaving with four shuttles is much slower – about 700 picks per hour. At 230 picks per inch, that’s…3 inches an hour. I could weave 25 yards of samples on Lady Ada in the time it would take to weave a single yard on Grace! Each row in this diagram represents about 20 minutes of weaving (200 picks).
Of course, speed is not everything – Grace’s patterning capabilities far outstrip Lady Ada’s, and she is working on a much finer thread count as well. Her work will be far more spectacular than the simple weaves I’m doing on Ada. But the weaving I’m doing on Ada gives much more instant gratification!
So far I have woven four of the six sample sets for Everett’s stole. After I finish all six (next week I think, assuming our heat wave doesn’t continue), I’ll be done with samples and can get on with the design. The design will be a real technical challenge – I expect it will involve considerable head-scratching and image manipulation. I’m hoping I can pull it off – if I can, the results will be spectacular. (And if not, I’ll modify the design to something do-able. But I’m pretty sure I can figure this out.)
More on that in a future blog post!