41.47 miles, actually, according to my calculations, but who’s counting?
Three-quarters of it is hand-painted, the other quarter is black. There are two warps.
Here’s the one for Maryam, the one you saw in the last blog post, finished and ready to go. I think it’s breathtakingly beautiful and can’t wait to weave on it!
It’s set up for double weave – one layer of warp will be black, so I can weave any color in combination with black, and the other layer will be the “fire” warp, in all its glorious shades of orange, red, and yellow.
The black warp isn’t as limiting as it sounds – by weaving a very weft-dominant fabric, I can actually transform it into virtually any other color. It will have dots of black in it, to be sure, so very light colors would be difficult to achieve, by medium to dark colors wouldn’t be too hard.
This warp is 2,680 threads (2,640 plus 40 extras to cover breakage), each of which is about 15.5 meters long. That’s 41,540 meters, or about 25.8 miles of yarn.
This warp is simply “Fire.”
And here’s the warp for Grace – that’s the sample warp for the Color Gradients class. I’m calling it “Gradients” for short. (You can attribute the names to a plethora of imagination – hey, I’m pre-coffee!)
Each of the warps is about 12.5 meters long – 4 wraps round my 3 meter circumference mill, plus a few inches more traveling down the length from top to bottom of the mill and around the warping pegs. There are 1,760 ends (threads) in the warp, and it’s set up for double weave. The bottom layer will be 880 threads – that’s the big warp on the left – and the top layer will be three side by side sections of about 290 threads apiece. Those are the smaller warps. Put together they will allow me to weave gradients in whatever color sequences and weave structures I want, three color combinations across.
The Gradients warp is also not a traditional painted warp. Most painted warps are designed to blend colors into each other at the boundary between colors, to give a painterly effect. With the Gradients warp, I basically want to simulate solid colored warps, so I want abrupt, synchronized color changes across the entire warp. I want to weave multiple solid color samples on the same warp, so the goal is to get the color changes to line up precisely so there’s no waste. This is a bit of a trick.
What I did was wind the warp and tie it off while it was still on the warping mill, using ikat tape and a guide string to make sure that all the ties were in exactly the same place along the warp on every bout (or as close as I could get, anyway). This, at least in theory, will make sure that the color changes line up with each other.
It was difficult to show how this works because the color areas are relatively long in the warp, but I spread it out on a table and lined things up as best I could:
It’s not perfect, but you can get the idea – the color changes synchronize across the length of the warp, so when Warp One changes colors, Warp Two (and Three, and Four) changes color at the same time.
The ikat tape (the plastic stuff wrapping the warp at the color changes) is designed for, well, ikat weaving, in which portions of the warp are bound off before dipping in dye (usually indigo). The bound areas resist the dye, creating patterning. Since ikat tape is specifically designed for this kind of work, it’s perfect for my much less stringent needs. (If you’re wondering where I bought it, I got it from John Marshall’s booth at Convergence. I don’t think he sells it mail-order, though, so you’ll have to try to catch him at a show. Before I found it I used Dharma Trading Company’s artificial sinew, which also works, though not as well.)
Here’s a closeup of the ikat tape, showing how it binds the warp and prevents the dye from running between sections:
That probably doesn’t look that interesting if you aren’t a dyer, but if (like me) you’ve spent a ton of time trying to figure out how to keep one section of a painted warp from bleeding into another, getting that sharp and clean a demarcation between sections is nothing short of amazing. The Holy Grail, achieved.
The other secret is to blot excess dye out of the warp after painting. I can’t believe it took me that long to figure it out. The few resources on warp painting I could find all said simply to put on enough dye to cover the warp but not so much that it was dripping. I have never been able to reach a happy balance point where the dye reaches full coverage but doesn’t run more than I like it to during batching or steaming, so if avoiding running is critical, I blot my warps with a bit of paper towel after painting to pick up excess dye. It shouldn’t be dry, but it shouldn’t be dripping wet, either. No more problems!
Here’s what the warp looks like after the ikat tape is removed:
See how clean the line is?
And here’s the warp after it’s been spread out and fluffed a little:
Obviously the white sections can’t be used in finished samples, but if I’ve done my job right, they should be lined up pretty closely so not much yarn should be wasted. I’ve budgeted about six inches of waste per color for the synchronization, which should (at least in theory) be plenty. It’s not actually completely wasted because I can use that section for testing, refining, and sampling the weave structures and stripe patterning for that particular section of samples. That would be waste in any case, so it all works out in the end.
I wound up with a little lagniappe at the end of all that warp-winding and dyeing. I had mixed up four gallons of dye for all that warp – which I knew was overkill, but dyes are relatively cheap, and running out of dye midway through painting a warp section would have been disastrous. (Let’s not even go there.) When I have excess dye, I simply add to my wardrobe. 90% of the time I run around in tie-dyed T-shirts and jeans, basically because if you’re a five-foot tall woman, with broad shoulders, and can deadlift 245 pounds and squat 200+ pounds, nothing off the rack is going to fit you anyway. And I live in California, where nobody dresses up for anything. So when I’m dyeing, and I have leftover dye, I just grab some T-shirts and some short-sleeve, button-up men’s shirts (that’s what passes for formal wear around here 😉 ), and throw them into the leftover dyes. I generally do low-water immersion dyeing, because it takes five minutes and no brains to dye a shirt and the results usually look great.
And here’s what I got out of it:
That’s the formalwear (hey, it’s California!), and I’m madly in love with all three of them, especially the fuchsia/orange and the blue/green shirts. Heck, all three are wonderful. It’s hard to pick a favorite.
Then there are the T-shirts. I’m less enthused by them, not because they aren’t pretty, but because the colors aren’t really “me”. This one, for example, is pretty, but far too conservative for magpie me:
And this one is a little too chartreuse (in real life it is brilliant yellow-green with patches of bright and rusty orange):
Fortunately, though, Jamie fell madly in love with the last T-shirt and immediately carted it off to her lair, so everything has found a home except the red-and-blue T-shirt, which I will probably give away. I have lots of T-shirts already, and T-shirts are cheap at about $2.50 apiece, so one more or less makes very little difference. And the excess dye got used!
Next step is to put the warps onto the loom. Jamie and I spent a full day over my vacation (I’m back to work now) swapping out the guts of the looms – we still need to rearrange some parts, which I’ve ordered from Tronrud Engineering in Norway, but meanwhile I can get started beaming the warps, and threading up Maryam. With 2,640 warps to tie on, that’s going to take quite awhile. And after that, I’ll need to thread 1,760 heddles on Amazing Grace. Better find some good audiobooks!