Sunday, February 8, 2009

More on end feeds

Sue asked me some questions in her comment on my last post and, being naturally verbose, my answer seems too long for a comment. Ergo, I have turned it into a whole new post! My mother always said I talk too much!

Here's Sue's question:

"Sue said... Love the picture of that latest scarf!! It's gorgeous!

So, if I'm understanding correctly, the thread doesn't come out the center of the end of the end-feed shuttle? Or you don't flip the shuttle around when you weave with it?

I'm thinking a lot about draw-in and selvedges myself these this is interesting to me."

In an end feed shuttle, the thread comes out of a hole in the front surface of the shuttle (i.e. the bit that faces you) near one end. On my shuttle, the hole is about 2" from the end of the shuttle. This pic from last Wednesday's Scarfaday shows it pretty well:

Nope, you don't flip the shuttle around as you weave, which means the hole is always way over there on the left. You shouldn't really turn any shuttle around while you weave, as it slows you down considerably and interrupts your weaving rhythm, which is critical to having neat and tidy selvages, an even beat, and (to my mind) Weaving Zen.

Parenthetical teaching moment:

I say "shouldn't" but of course that's subjective. The whole point is to enjoy yourself so if turning the shuttle around is important to your enjoyment of weaving, by all means do it. Do practice weaving without flipping, though, and give it a good go before you decide it's not for you. I'm speaking here not to Sue but to all the shuttle-flippers in the crowd, whoever they may be. I've had students who like to flip, at least for a while, and though I encourage them to try weaving without flipping I'm definitely not going to rap their knuckles with a ruler when I see it happening. If they eventually decide not to weave that way, grand. I really do think that's best. However, if they are happy weaving that way to the end of their days, that is also grand. "Happy" is the goal, after all.

Anyway, back to end feeds. The advantage of an end feed is that the pirn (the end feed's version of a bobbin) is stationary. It doesn't spin around on a pin the way a bobbin does in a boat shuttle, so it never spins too far. Have you ever caught a shuttle and had the bobbin just keep on keepin' on, unwinding tons more weft that you wanted? Won't happen in an end feed. You may pull the shuttle too far and so let out too much weft, but that's another issue entirely and one that is corrected with practice. Another thing that doesn't happen nearly as often (once you've mastered the learning curve of winding a pirn, which is an acquired skill just like winding a bobbin) is having your weft snag on something and pull hard on the far selvage.

Yet another bonus of an end feed is that they all have some kind of tensioning system, so that you can adjust the drag on the thread as it leaves the shuttle. This helps you get just the right amount of tug on the far selvage and leave just the right amount of weft in the shed, whether you're weaving a narrow warp or a wide one, or weaving with a heavy wool or a fine silk. All these things result in much more even selvages. In a Bluster Bay shuttle, this system is made up of six little hooks that you hook the thread around to add drag:

More hooks (and more acute angles) = more drag. As I've talked about elsewhere once or twice, I have a mental numbering system for these hooks that helps me keep track of the way I tension my weft for a particular project. Since I repeat the same combination of warp and weft pretty frequently, this makes it easy for me to know or estimate what tension I'll need when I begin a new warp. I've numbered the hooks as 1, 2, 3 on the top row (left to right) and 4, 5, 6 on the bottom row (also left to right), and then I "read" my tension from orifice to pirn. Using this system, the tension shown above would be 1-2-5-6-3. That's one I use pretty often with weft similar in weight to the one shown above, which is a 4/8 cotton. With heavier weft, like an 8/8 cotton or a knitting weight wool, I usually use 1-5-3, or sometimes 1-2-3 (for less drag) or 1-2-5-3 (for more).

The one thing about an end feed that works against even selvages is the issue with angle in the shed that I described in my last post, and that's definitely something you can account for by paying attention.

I can think of only two things that detract from the appeal of end feed shuttles. Firstly, they're pretty darned expensive - I paid over CA$100 for each of mine. Totally worth the expense, in my opinion, but then I weave a lot and get paid for it. They're definitely a luxury item for weavers for whom that's not true. Secondly, they tend to be heavier than boat shuttles of the same size. I worried about this before buying my first shuttle because I've got CTS in both wrists and I feared the weight might aggravate it. Happily, it has not. I do find, however, that I prefer my lighter shuttle to my heavier one.

My experience with end feeds is limited to the absolutely beautiful ones made by Bluster Bay. I fell in love with one of theirs at my first Convergence in '96 and bought a second at my next Convergence in '02. AVL makes end feeds as well, as do Schacht and no doubt some others, but the Bluster Bays are things of such beauty and so lovely to hold and look at and pet fondly that I've had no desire to try any others. Dot obviously has more experience than I with different kinds and has posted detailed comparison of various end feeds and boat shuttles and instructions for winding a pirn here on her blog - go take a look!

And now I am running really late for our Unspun Heroes spinning and dyeing day so I'd best skedaddle (omg, I can't believe I'm actually using that word in print). I'll address the rest of Sue's question later!

Oops, just one more thought: Sue seemed a little anxious about asking so many questions. Please, please, PLEASE do not be! Ask me heaps of questions and I will answer them to the best of my ability or point you on to others who can do better. Being asked questions means that someone's actually reading der blog, which is the whole point after all, and so very gratifying. Being asked questions means I get to play teacher even though I'm not actually teaching a weaving course this term, and that makes me happy. Most of all, being asked questions gives me ideas for things to talk about that are actually interesting and relevant to people who pop by to visit der blog, and some days it's hard to know what to talk about. Once I get going I have trouble stopping (Hi, Ma!) but any inspiration from outside for topics is most welcome. In short, I love questions. Ask them. Please.

Roit. Gotta go. Byeeeeee!


Life Looms Large said...

Thanks so much for answering my question so thoroughly and so quickly!!!

Fortunately, I haven't developed a shuttle flipping habit - since mine is a boat shuttle and the yarn comes out in the middle of the shuttle, there's definitely no need to flip!

And thanks for being willing to answer questions!! Weaving is tricky at the beginning, and sometimes I can only learn one small piece of it at a time!


PS: I changed my profile so that it would be easier to tell me apart from the other gazillion Sue's and Susan's who blog! But I'm still the same person!

jackie said...

I used an end feed shuttle for the first time just before Christmas. It was an enlightening experience. I so wanted one until I saw the price! I still actually want one, but I think that I may have to wait a bit. But if you do a lot of weaving (and I call a scarf a day a lot of weaving!) then an end feed shuttle is so worth it!