Troubleshooting Inkle Band Weaves

Every now and then I get the urge to make a small inkle band using my Ashford Inklette loom:

This loom is pretty affordable and great to do some small weavings when you want to have something you can take with you easily.  I wanted to weave something at this year’s MSKR (Men’s Spring Knitting Retreat) 2012, and though I could have taken my rigid heddle loom, I went for ultra, ultra portable.

What I am ultimately making these bands for – beats me. I just make them.

It’s funny how I wove two or three trouble free bands and then all of the sudden, errors kept coming up all on the same project.

First, if I leave an inkle band in mid warp, I tie the active yarn several times around the bottom peg to maintain the tension until I continue. Well I had done that but when I returned, I continued warping without realizing I still had the wraps around the peg. I finished warping and then realized those loops were still there, preventing me from sliding the band around.

My solution was to carefully, slip the warp threads ahead of the problem off and hold them under tension while I took off all of those wraps. I then, again carefully, placed back all of the warp threads in my hand.

Great, except now one of my warp threads was super loose. I decided the best fix for this was to cut that loop and tie it to the adjacent warp thread very tightly. Even after doing so, I still found it too lose so I resorted to the next best logical solution…

…scotch tape.

Then I was weaving happily along when a middle heddle flew off! I guess it wasnt tied all that well. Here I separated the warp as much as I could, loosened the tension, and tried to slip a new yarn in just the right position and tie the new heddle down. Here it is in mid repeair:

I can just say that the space I had to work in wasn’t very generous, but I did manage it somehow. Its still not tight but hopefully I can continue to the end with no further issues.

The lesson is, even when things go wrong, at least you get the opportunity to try learning how to fix them and know what to look out for the next time around. It’s the only way to become really good at your craft.

The Liftplan

Not too long after I had gotten my brand new loom, I realized I was instantly drawn to complex 8-shaft patterns.

The first draft I bought (and used for my first multishaft project!) was an advancing twill design on all 8 shafts.

If anyone is not familiar with advancing twills, some have long or not easily identifiable repeats when you are threading your warp yarns (which was the case for my pattern). Its the same story for the treadling – like a complex knitting chart, you need to work very slowly and pay attention.

This immediately created a problem for me. My table loom has no treadles. Not only do I have no identifiable pattern, for each treadle I have to set the 8 levers exactly. The  headache that was going in my mind wondering how I I would keep my sanity while trying to make sure I made no mistakes made me wonder if this was the right loom. Should I have gotten a floor loom with treadles?

 I started brainstorming immediately to find ways to simplify this process. My first solution is the subject of this post. My even better refinement will be the subject of another one.
My first thought was – since I don’t have treadles – I don’t really see the point in referring to that part of a weaving draft. I devised a sort of Numbers template (a mac equivalent to Excel) where I could convert one row of a weaving draft into the sequence of levers I had to depress:
This is better to visualize then explain. Below is the draft that I posted in a previous post:
And this is what I converted it to in Numbers:
In the original draft, the first step is to lift the 8th treadle, and you can see in the tie-up that it lifts shafts 1,3,4 and 7 – so in the spreadsheet, I fill out those numbers. (The numbers go from right to left because that is the way the levers are arranged on my table loom).
Then I write out the rest of the treadles until it repeats.
And that’s pretty much it! I print out the chart, keep it by my loom and follow it, pressing the levers indicated in each row.
Being a new weaver, what I actually had created, unbeknownst to me, was a liftplan.
A weaving lift plan shows the same information as a typical weaving draft, with a couple of key differences. The tie up section is empty. The treadling section no longer represents the the treadles that have to be pressed – they now show which shafts have to be raised on each row.
After inputting the draft above into Fiberworks, I had it converted into a liftplan. Now the draft looks like the following:
This is exactly what I was doing in my spreadsheet diagram. (Leclerc Voyageur table loom users beware – shaft 1 on a liftplan is the leftmost shaft, but the lever that controls it on the loom is the rightmost! You may need to invert a lift plan.)
At the end of the day, since the software can easily convert a regular weaving draft to a lift plan, I could cut time in my preparation by simply using what the software was giving me, rather than spend time in a spreadheet creating my own charts:
I thought this would solve my table loom woes, but there was something even better…

The Weaving Draft

It doesn’t take long when learning to weave until you encounter your first drafts, and it took me a while to figure out what they were and how they worked. I thought I’d write about how I learned to understand a weaving draft.

A draft can be considered to be the equivalent of a knitting pattern. Actually, not really. It’s more like a chart in a knitting pattern. Its not enough information for a weaver to start a particular project – details such as sett, yardage, material, finished project dimensions are all absent , but it provides information on how to set the loom up and work it to produce a cloth with a particular interlacement.

Drafts are usually divided into four quadrants. In the draft below of a 2/2 twill, I’ve labelled the quadrants A to D.

The Threading (A)

This section shows how the harnesses/shafts of a loom must be threaded. (Editor’s note: I used the term shafts and harnesses interchangeably without realizing and didn’t have time to fix it.) A harnesses job is to raise the threads that are assigned to it so that the weft yarn can pass underneath them. This section tells the weaver what threads each harness lifts and in what order.

The horizontal lines represent each individual harness. The bottom line is the harness closest to you if you’re sitting in front of the loom. You can also tell how many shafts your loom has to have to weave the draft by looking at how many rows are in this section.

Though there are many ways to thread the loom, two common ways to thread is straight threading and point threading.

In straight threading, a warp yarn goes through harness 1, the next yarn goes to harness 2 and so on. After you thread a heddle on the last harness, you go back to harness 1 and continue.

In point threading, you also thread harnesses 1 at a time. When you reach the end however, you change direction and thread the harnesses in the reverse order instead of starting back at harness 1. The original draft is shown below, with the only thing changed is the threading from straight to point threading. The diagonal stripes become horizontal zig zags.

The Tie Up (B)

Treadles (the floor pedals of a loom) are used to raise 1 or more shafts at the same time. The treadles on most loomes are usually fully configurable and can be set up to raise any combination of shafts you want it to. By doing so, the treadles provide the weaver a way to quickly raise combinations of shafts that form a pattern without having to think in terms of indiviaual harnesses (which is the case for my table loom). This section tells the weaver how to connect the treadles to the shafts.

Each column in quadrant B represents a treadle. Column 1 is for the first treadle and so on. If a row of that column is marked with a figure (usually an ‘O’ or its filled in), it means that the treadle needs to be connected to the shaft it is next to.

The Treadling (C)

This section simply tells you what order to press the pedals in to form a particular pattern the cloth. Like the threading, common treadlings are straight and point treadlings – they operate in the same way.

In the example of our 2/2 twill above, if we change the treadling from straight to point, we now get diamond patterns:

You can probably notice by now that by using a point pattern on the threading, treadling, or both, introduces a lines of horizontal and vertical symmetry into the cloth. You can also see in drafts such as this that the pattern in the cloth can be seen in the the tie-up quadrant of the draft.

A final note about our example, you’ll notice that in this draft, the threading and the treadling order is exactly the same. You’ll see the instruction “tromp as writ” come up from time to time, sometimes in drafts where the treadling is absent. This means to simply treadle in the same order as is threaded, I imagine its an old way of saying “treadle as written”.

The Drawdown (D)

This section gives you an idea what the finished cloth pattern will look like – it basically shows you the resulting interesction of the warp and weft yarns, usually with the implicit assumption that the warp is a black yarn and the weft is a white yarn.

Sometimes, more than one repeat is shown in either direction so you can see how one repeat connects with one another when they are laid side by side.

In the diagram below, you can see how you can figure out how to draw this section if you know what’s in the other three. I show how the second pick (weft row) is drawn in our 2/2 point twill draft:

  1. First you look at the tie up associated with the treadle that is being pressed and determine which shafts are being raised.
  2. Next you look across the shafts and every column that is filled with a number represents the threads that that are being lifted
  3. Finally, in the current pick that is being drawn, you darken each square that is directly below the squares being lifted.Continue the process for each pick and you’re done.
One last note before signing off – what you’re seeing in quadrant D is a drawdown, the  key word being down. When we weave however, the cloth is actually formed in the other direction (from bottom to top). For that reason, sometimes you’ll see drafts with quadrants A and B at the bottom, which will show how the actual cloth will look as it is woven on the loom. For fully symmetrical patterns, the direction doesn’t matter. But for other drafts, such as our simple 2/2 twill at the beginning of the post, this will mean that what looks like a twill that travels in the right direction in the draft will actually travel in the left direction when it is woven!

Calculating warp and weft

I have a couple of friends who may soon be trying weaving out for the first time. The first thing they need to do is plan out their project, which may seem daunting with all the formulae and math involved, but its really all not that bad if you break the steps down bit by bit.

So I thought I’d walk my friends through an example of how I personally calculate the various parameters of my weaving project, with an example so you can see the math in action. There is some emphasis on rigid heddle looms, since that sometimes the loom people start with, but most of it applies to other looms as well.

  1. Decide on a desired width and length of your project: Your width is contrained by the size of your loom, the length less so. There is a point (that I haven’t reached), where you wind on so much cloth on the front beam that you can’t really weave any more. This will happen quicker if you’re making thick cloth. (bulky yarns, doubleweave). For the length, include desired fringes.
    Our example: I want a scarf that will be 8″ wide. The scarf itself should be 55″ long, with a 5″ fringe on each end.
    width: 8″
    length: 55″ + 5″ + 5″ = 65″
  2. Calculate the actual width to warp accounting for draw in: Yarns in a woven project actually go over and under themselves many times, and this interlacing takes up yarn all on its own – the yarn does not go straight across from one side to another. For this reason, if you measure out exactly the length and width you need and dress your loom for those measurements, you’ll find that the project is narrower and shorter when its taken off the loom. This is known as draw in. I think the actual amount a piece draws in varies based on the material used, but I usually factor 10% in each direction.
    Our example: Our desired width is 8″. if we add on another 10%, we have the following:
    width accounting for draw in: 9″ (8.8 actually but I just chose to round up for convenience, you don’t have to)
  3. Determine sett (epi): Now we want to figure out how closely we want to put our warp yarns next to each other in the final piece. sett, or epi (ends per inch) is exactly that – the number of warp ends (yarns) in one inch of fabric. The following calculation will give you an ideal sett for plain weave – what you usually weave on rigid heddle looms – but there’s no sett (pun!) rule: If you want a drapier fabric, you can put less warp ends in an inch, if you want a firm fabric, you’d put more ends per inch.I take my intended yarn, and determine the wraps per inch using a wpi tool or ruler. I put wrap the yarns around the tool or ruler nice and snugly, the way I’d expect them to lie against each other in the finished piece, and measure how many wraps in one inch. I divide that # by 2 to get the sett.
    Our example: I choose some random yarn from my stash that will look nice. I find that I have about 19 wraps per inch. Since that doesn’t divide evenly by two, I can just say the following:
    sett: 9-10 epiIf you’re not weaving plain weave, you would need to adjust the above number. Different weave structures require different setts for a similarly dense fabric.
  4. If you’re rigid heddling, Choose a rigid heddle!  Heddles commonly come in 5,8,10,or 12 dent sizes. A dent size is related to epi. An 8 dent heddle means 8 threads can be threaded every inch. If you’re somewhere between two numbers, you can decide now if you want a looser or denser fabric.
    Our example : I can choose an 8 or 10 dent heddle. I want a dense fabric
    10 dent heddle chosen
  5.  Determine number of warp ends needed: So we know how many warp yarns are in 1″, and we know the width that we want to warp, so this part is simple:
    Our example: 10 epi x 9″ = 90 warp endsNow you know how many times you need to go around the warping board, or if you’re direct warping, you now know you need to go through 90 slots and holes, or 45 slots and 45 holes.
  6.  We now want to find out how many yards of warp yarn you will need. We will start by figuring out how long 1 warp yarn should be. Start with your intended length and account for draw in, just like we did for the width:
    Our example: 65″ length (with fringes) * 1.10 = 72″ inchesNB: Some material shrinks after being finished/washed. After you know how much this might be, you might want to tack on additional %s for your warp and weft to account for shrinkage when finishing your piece.
  7. Add loom waste: Some of your yarn will always be unweavable. You use up some yarn to tie the warp to the front and back aprons. (On my rigid heddle loom, I can minimize the yarn at the back apron rod by not cutting one end of the warp putting the loops directly on the apron rod). In addition, it will be harder to form a clear shed as the back apron rod gets closer and closer to the heddles. The yarn that remains from the woven piece that goes through the heddles and to the rod at the end of the weaving is also waste. This varies from loom to loom. Usually, the bigger the loom, the larger the waste. Rigid heddle looms have little waste. I have been putting 24″ in my calculations. That’s probably more than necessary – I think my table loom is closer to 24″ of waste than my rigid heddle – but you can adjust after you’ve done some projects and get a feel for your amount.
    Our example: 72″ + 24″ (loom waste) = 96″
  8. Add sampling space: if you want to try a new pattern, or practice some techniques at the beginning, you can add some here so that you can do so at the beginning. 6″ can be enough if you’re just trying out the pattern to figure out how much to beat and if you like it / want to adjust it. If I’m doing plainweave or I have already done the same kind of weave, I leave it out
    Our example: 96″ + 6″ (sampling) = 102″8b. If weaving multiple pieces, you may want to add some inches between each piece if you want to actually seperate them while weaving (you may simply want to cut the cloth and sew hems though)
  9.  We have arrived at our next important piece of info:
    Our example: 102″ (or 2.83 yards) is the length of our warp. How many yards do we need? Multiply by the # of warp ends:Our example: 2.83 yards in one warp end  times 90 warp ends = 254.7 yards of warp total
  10.  Almost there! We need to calculate our weft. I am going to assume we’re aiming for a balanced plain weave(Balanced plain weave is simply a fabric that has the same number of warp ends per inch as it does weft ends per inch). If your goal is weave a balanced plain weave, then you can just use the same amount for your weft yarn:
    Our example: 254.7 yards of weft total.
    Total: 500 yards needed for entire project. You can add 10% if you want to make sure you have a comfortable amount: buy 550 yards of material.When you have more weft ends per inch (or less) than the warp, you need to make a similar calculation as you did for the warp. Calculate how many weft threads you’ll have per inch, how long one weft thread is (more than the width of the piece because of draw in), and multiply by the entire width of the project.
And that’s pretty much it! You now have: yardage needed, # of ends to warp, and the length of your warp. You are ready to start winding!
You can design your own calculating spreadsheet based on the above steps. There may be plenty out there but if you make your own, you can walk through the steps and organize your sheet any way you like. I use Numbers for the Mac. It allows you to put several spreadsheets of various sizes on one blank canvas.
A final note, do something which I always forget to do: In a notebook, write the length of the warp you calculated and the width you will be warping on. When its off the loom, measure and record those widths. Once you’ve washed the piece, measure again and record.
If you do this consistantly, you can start to adjust your weft and warp draw in, and you’ll know how much washing will affect the dimensions.