Thursday, August 12, 2010

New project - Silk/Wool Girdle

Since my plans for starting a set of Elizabethan underpinnings got hung up due to fabric snafus, last weekend I decided to get on with a weaving project I'd had on the sidelines for a while (i.e. planned out and bought everything but didn't start it. For like 6 months. Oops?)

Below is a really crappy cell phone picture of the project in progress:

The fiber is JaggerSpun Zephyr 50/50 Wool-Silk Yarn, 2/18, in Chrome and Real Red (don't ask me why the yellow is named "chrome"). I warped up ~ 3 yards (9 feet), anticipating roughly a 7.5 foot finished project after takeup.

The original plan was for a yellow band with red borders, with a double-faced red design woven in every 4" or so. However, I wasn't happy with the way the red fiber underneath showed through the yellow on top; in addition weaving a finicky double-faced design proved almost impossible with such such a fine fuzzy fiber (see below for comments on the fiber). In this photo you can see where I started off with the yellow band, attempted the double-faced design, failed, tried a red stripe and didn't like it, and then started a card-patterned chevron design with a 4" repeat, which I will continue for the rest of the warp. Overall, while I'm disappointed that I couldn't weave my design, I'm happy with the chevrons (and secretly relived I don't have to fuss with working a complicated design every 4 inches.) ;)

Re: the fiber- this fiber is lovely and soft and pretty....and it's fuzzy and snarls/tangles/sticks to itself like mad! This wool/silk blend is not a smoothly or tightly woven fiber, and I wouldn't recommend it for card weaving unless you're ok babying it throughout the while process. My laurel Giovanna came over to help me warp up the 3 yards, and suffice to say, due to poor planning on my part re: winding half of the yarn off  the cones onto sticks, and the nature of the fiber, things got pretty tangled up more than once. (Next time, a yarn swift, a ball machine, a warping wand and a warping board will be employed!)

I did get a useful tip from two experienced weavers when I complained on my Livejournal about the whole thing - apparently one can "size" the fiber beforehand by soaking it in a diluted starch solution (see here). This smooths and protects the fibers. However, since my project was already on the loom with the cards in it, I bought a can of spray starch from CVS and just sprayed down the section I was working on (I used a hair dryer on high to speed the drying process.) It definitely helps the cards turn more easily, but I think properly sizing it beforehand would get better results. The best way I've found to deal with it snagging on itself is to slide the cards all the way up to the woven bit after each turn - that separates out the strands and lets you get the shuttle in for beating. Of course, all the sliding up and down with the cards abuses the warp further and makes it fuzz up more, but it's pretty much the only way to get the shed clear to run the shuttle/weft through. (I like this fiber and I would use it again after sizing it, but it is definitely not for a beginner, or anyone lacking in patience!)

I'll post more updates as I make progress. Because the chevron pattern is a "weave forward x number of times, and reverse the same number of times" method, the weaving goes relatively quickly; however, 9 feet of warp is still a LOT of weaving, so I suspect I'll be at this for a while.

Ultimately I will be blocking/ironing the finished product, and then tacking it onto a strip of linen canvas and finally backing it with silk taffeta, to give it more body and better drape. I have belt mounts and a buckle cast for it already, and will carve and cast a strap end at some point.

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