In the Space of One Warp

If you listened to the first WeaveCast, you’ll know that I didn’t take to weaving immediately.  I bought a used Baby Wolf loom, tried to learn it on my own with limited success, and then put in in the corner for a two-year time out.  Then I took a class, learned how to really use it and then dove head-long into weaving.

I don’t recommend this as a method, but it does seem to be mine.  A couple of years ago, I bought a used AVL loom.  I tried to learn to weave on it, with limited success, and it’s loomed over my weaving studio ever since.  (AVL Production Dobby Looms do not roll into corners, they’re also hard to throw in your car to take to a workshop.)

It took a new locale (with more space to get around the loom), re-building parts of it to be more user-friendly, three trips from Laura Fry (and one from Doug), and one nine-yard test warp, but finally, for the first time, yesterday, I felt like I was in charge of this loom, not the other way around!

The warp started off rough.  With many a problem.  (BTW, if you’re trying to find skips or threading errors in a warp using a screaming yellow weft is a great idea.)

rough warp

I’d threaded it in a hurry late one night and made just about every mistake known to weaver.  It was a slow process to fix them one-by-one.  There were also things wrong with the loom that I had to fix.  Like the turnbuckle that goes to the dobby.  It loosened and fell apart, and in the process of putting it back together…suddenly I had a decent shed!

I’d be the first to admit that I’m not an AVL PDL guru, but I can weave on this thing!  More than that, I can debug it when things go wrong.  I can fix problems in the threading and tension.  I can tweak the fly shuttle cord lengths so it feels right.  I can tell when the shafts have caught on each other (only happened once) and when I forgot to engage the live weight (happened more times than I’d care to admit.)  I didn’t even freak out when I broke the Texsolv fly-shuttle cord.  I just measured out a new length, popped it in place and continued on.

With computer control, a fly shuttle, and automatic cloth advance, driving this loom feels like flying!  The biggest problem I had was that I was weaving so fast I’d run out of weft and not notice it for a pick or two, then I’d have to backtrack, which is not so easy with auto-cloth-advance.  (I need a pirn with a warning siren: weft getting low!)

The other thing I haven’t quite figured is why occasionally I fling the fly shuttle off to the right.  I’m not sure if I need to adjust the elbow-pickers or if it’s something I’m doing wrong, such as moving the beater too soon when I throw from the left or how I throw the fly shuttle.  I paid close attention to myself while weaving and haven’t identified the cause yet.

Some cool things I noticed about the AVL:

  • The loom waste isn’t as bad as I’d feared.  I measured it at 35 inches.  One foot to tie onto the front (I tied on to the apron rod instead of using the sandpaper beam to start) and two feet at the end of the warp.  This surprised me because it’s a big loom.  But I was able to weave right up to the heddles and get a decent shed.

weaving rigup to the heddles

  • You can weave fast!  I loved not having to stop and advance the warp.  The only downside was having to watch the weft like a hawk and make sure you didn’t run out.
  • It’s a great workout.  Driving an AVL is a lot of work, lifting 48-inch-wide shafts is not effortless and the beater is heavy.  I fell into a rhythm and got the same relaxed high that I get during a good workout or long-distance bike ride.
  • No missed shafts.  I may be jinxing myself here, but my Compudobby I wove 8 yards of cloth without a single mis-fired shaft.

The fabric shows clearly my journey to competence.  At the beginning are numerous skips in the fabric, some areas where things got so bad I just advanced the warp to start over.

more bad cloth

Then you can see I’m coming to terms with the warp and the loom.  Things are getting better, mistakes are fewer.

Finally, I picked a pattern to weave(*), Diamonds, one of the sample patterns that comes with Fiberworks PCW, and made usable cloth.

Usable cloth!

It’s not perfect cloth.  But as I tell my students, when you’re learning, your goal is to make a weaver.  Any cloth that happens is a bonus.

Last week I created an AVL weaver.

And I ended  up with about 4 yards of rayon chenille twill as a bonus!  I’m not sure what I’ll make out of it.  I’m currently thinking some sort of garment.  A slinky-soft top or jacket.  I’ll have to see how it wet-finishes up.  It’s 2000 ypp sleyed at 24 epi.

The failed scraps of starts and stops I’m thinking about turning into patchwork projects.  Pincushions and the like.

I can’t wait to get my next warp on the loom.  It’s one that’s waited too long already.

(*) I fully intended to design my own weave draft, but it’s been a crazy week and I had to choose between designing and weaving.  Once I got the loom up-and-running, I couldn’t keep my hands off it long enough to create a WIF.  It’s so much fun to be able to finally use this beast of a loom!

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