Monday, January 12, 2009

Q: How smug am I?

Lawks! I cannot tell you how excited and smug I am feeling about what I'm up to today, but I am going to try!

Here's the thing: I made a sectional warp beam for Mabel (my 60" DIYmakra) a few years ago and have been using it almost exclusively for the past couple, but I've never been all that thrilled with it. For one thing, it's slow to wind on the warp. Probably less time over all than winding the warp on the mill and then beaming the warp chains, especially when you consider Ron's time when he helps me beam, but it still seems frustratingly slow. I am all about instant gratification, after all. For another thing, it's been really blinkin' uncomfortable to crouch down under the threads as they come from the spool rack behind me and then slide back and forth on my toosh between the bout I'm winding on and the wheel that turns the warp beam around. For a third thing, the spool rack is kinda big and awkward and gets jammed up underneath the stairs that the loom backs on. Ekcetera, ekcetera. So... although I have firmly believed all this time that the sectional system was preferable to The Old Way, I've been dragging my feet whenever it comes time to put a new warp on the loom 'cause it's been frustrating and tedious.

All of this is behind me now! Or rather, most of it is in front of me now, which is TONS and TONS better. Let me explain: it finally occurred to me that I could put the spool rack inside the loom and put the tension box on the back beam in the other direction. This means both that I don't have to crouch down under the threads (oh, happy happy day!) and also that the rack doesn't get jammed up under the stairs. And the non-crouching and extra space behind the loom means that I can sit in a rolly chair and sail back and forth between bout and wheel, which not only increases speed and comfort, it increases the fun factor exponentially. Who doesn't love zooming back and forth in a rolly chair, I ask you? I've also got enough room for my little rolly drawers to follow me along, so that I have a surface on which to put all the stuff that used to fall off the warp beam as I was working and to which I can stick all the little bits of tape I use to secure the cut bouts - no more sticking tape to poor ol' Mabel. She's never complained about it, but I've felt a bit guilty nevertheless. AND it's all at a much more comfortable height - no more bending over to mess about with knots and things. I cannot tell you how much better this is than the old way! WAIT - I just did!

Note the rolly chair! Please try not to also note that the rolly chair is covered in cat fur. This chair belongs to Brown, No.3/4ths cat.

I should perhaps mention here that I figured out the whole sectional business on my own - I've never seen anyone else put on a sectional warp, in the flesh or by vid, so I'm just figuring out what works as I go along. Undoubtedly these are not revelations to anyone who really knows what they're doing around a sectional beam, or perhaps those folks know even better ways of doing things, but this is pretty darn exciting in my world.

But wait! There's more!

Since putting the sectional rakes on the loom, I've been doing a lot of cotton blankets (like the baby blankets in previous posts) but far fewer of the wool blankets that used to be one of my staple products, since they don't really lend themselves to (my version of) sectional warping. My wool blankets don't (or didn't use to) have stripes that were full inches, nor have the same inches repeated ... er, repeatedly, and so on. I've figured it out and made it work, but have had that nagging dissatisfaction with the process and the results and that dragging of feet re: planning warps, only compounded for the wool blankets. Blah.

So anyway, this morning I decided I wanted to 1) use up some of the singles wool that I'd bought last year, 2) try a striped rosepath twill style of threading that I think will make great blankets, pillows and garments, and 3) try reversing my sectional arrangement as described above. The catch is that the threading I wanted to use has the same five colours across the warp, but every single inch is different from every other - not something I've ever attempted to do on my sectional before.1 Still, I decided to give it a whirl, in a short warp so that the wailing and gnashing of teeth would be kept to a minimum and be over as quickly as possible.

I examined my threading's colour arrangement and determined that there are at most six white ends in each inch, four blue ends, four pink ends, three purple ends and three green ends2, so then I wound all those bobbins. That's 20 bobbins even though I'm only using 10 epi. I bunged 'em all on the spool rack, threaded them all through the first and second combs of the tension box (and the tension rods in between the combs) but not through the comb on the extender. Then I pick out the 10 threads that I need for the an inch, secure the others out of the way, and wind the first bout with just those 10 threads. This made a big mess until I figured out the best way to secure the unused threads so they didn't get tangled up, but has worked a treat since then. At the next inch, I whip all the threads out of the extender's comb, pick out the next set of 10 threads and pop them into the comb, and then start winding. And so on!

Here is how I figured out how to secure the unused ends out of the way:

NB: it's important to keep them raised up above the ones you are using, which are pulled tight against the bar at the bottom, so that the ones that are moving past don't snag on the loose ones and carry them along with. I have one purple thread in particular that's been a bit fiddly but every once in a while I stop and have a few (only slightly swear-y!) words with that one and pull it tight again and other than that it's all worked like a charm.

So I spent a very relaxed couple hours before lunch messing about, winding bobbins, figuring out how to get my spool rack at the right height inside the loom (it's up on a bench that goes across the treadles) and then winding on half my warp, whilst having a rolly good time (yeargh - sorry!) zipping back and forth on my rolly chair and feeling...

A: Very, Very Smug Indeed.

1. When I've put on this type of warp in the past, I've wound each colour as its own chain and then dressed the loom from front to back. Although I learned F2B first, this is just about the only thing I still put on the loom that way. Sectional is EVEN BETTER.

2. It turns out that I really needed four purples and four greens but I didn't have them, so I'm changing the colour patterns as I go along. NB: this is operator error, i.e. I Screwed Up, and not a problem with the system, which works GRATE!

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