Hooters Hall

Posts Tagged ‘weaving’

The Wool Project: Welsh wool quilt

This week I’ve been getting everything ready for weaving my Welsh wool quilt. I’ve decided to weave four 2 metre long strips with a twill weave in contrasting colours. The first strip will have a warp of ruby red wool yarn and a weft of hand spun black, Hebridean, single yarn.

Twill is a weave with a pattern of diagonal parallel ribs. This is done by passing the weft thread over one or more warp threads and then under two or more warp threads and so on, with a “step” or offset between rows to create the characteristic diagonal pattern. Because of this structure, twills generally drape well. It’s also quite easy to vary the pattern you are weaving without changing the way the warp is threaded. If it all goes to plan I’d like to try several different patterns on each strip of fabric to give a patchwork effect on the finished quilt top.

With a 2metre warp to measure I decided to use my homemade warping board. The board simply has wooden dowling rods placed at varying intervals around the edge. I measured out 2 meters using some green twine, so it was obviously different from the warp threads, and then wound on 96 warp threads. When winding on the warp you need to create a figure of eight at one end which makes transferring the warp to the loom easier. With a long warp it’s also important to place ties around the threads at regular intervals to prevent any tangling.

Here’s the warp on the board (Sansa kitten was supervising) To keep count of the threads as I wound them on I tied every 10 threads together with green twine.

 Once all the warp threads are measured out the tricky bit starts. The warp needs to be transferred from the board to the loom and threaded through the reed and heddles without getting all tangled. Tying the warps in a large knot at the end, tying ties around the warp and the cross as well as chaining the warp all help keep it from getting tangled. You also need plenty of time and no distractions.

Here’s the warp on the loom.


The heddles / shafts are threaded in a 4,3,2,1 pattern. I’m also trying out floating selvedges for the first time. With a floating selvedge the warp threads at each edge of the weave are not threaded through any heddles but simply floating. The weft is passed over or under them depending on preference.

I’ve got a bobbin full of my weft yarn but need to wash and finish it before I start weaving. Hopefully I’ll be able to get started later this week.

The Wool Project : Welsh Woolen Quilt

What makes a quilt Welsh ?

Historically the majority of Welsh quilting seems to have started in the mid 19th century continuing on to around the middle of the 20th century.  In Wales the majority of quilting work was done by professional quilters which lead to the development of a distinctive style and high standard of quilting. Generally if you had money and wanted a quilt you employed a professional quilter to make one for you. These quilts were treasured and kept for best, a mark of your success and worth.Professional quilters traveled the country, living with their customers while making the quilt which was generally completed within two weeks.

There are three main types of Welsh quilts cotton and multi fabric, wholecloth and woolen.

Cotton and multi fabric quilts became popular after roller printed cotton fabrics became more generally available in 1840. A medallion or frame quilt is the style of patchwork most associated with Wales. For Welsh quilters though the patchwork was very much considered second place to the quilting. It is the quilting patterns that identify a quilt as Welsh, the fabrics generally being made in England.

The quilting of Welsh quilts follows a basic format consisting of a square or rectangular central field surrounded by one or more borders. Borders were often outlined by double lines and had corner squares. The quilting borders don’t necessarily follow the seams of the patchwork in multi fabric quilts. A variety of motifs were used with designs developing as the quilting progressed and very much being the personal choice of the quilter. Motifs were often passed down in families and quilters prided themselves on the originality of their quilting.

Wholecloth quilts are made from a single piece of fabric rather than patchwork. They became popular from 1880 when satin cotton in a range of plain colours became the favoured fabric for quilts. Satin cotton has a sheen which shows off quilting very well. The Rural Industries Board, which was est up in 1928, encouraged the production of high quality luxury quilts and supported the Welsh quilters in using their traditional quilting patterns in new ways with wholecloth quilts. The influence of the Rural Industries Board also led to the individual  travelling professional quilter becoming a thing of the past. Quilters were encouraged to work in groups, with up to four women working on one quilt to achieve the goal of rapidly produced, high quality work. This change in production was no doubt beneficial to the industry as a whole but removed the individuality that came with the travelling quilters whose unique personalities were part of their quilting.

The opposite end of the spectrum to the luxury wholecloth quilts of the early – mid 20th century is the very traditional Welsh woolen quilt. Welsh woolen quilts were entirely home grown. The woolen cloth was made in the wool industries of mid and west Wales using wool yarn spun from the fleeces of Welsh sheep. The quilts were filled with wool collected from the hedgerows making them cheap to produce but incredibly warm and practical.

I’m Welsh and I like to quilt my multi cloth patchwork quilts in the Welsh style. I started off choosing motifs based on the fabric or theme of the quilt but overtime seemed to have developed my own personal motifs like those travelling Welsh quilters of old.

Much as I love creating multi cloth patchwork quilts I’ve always been fascinated by the Welsh woolen quilts. Now I have my own flock of Jacob sheep , can spin my fleeces and weave my own fabrics I want to experiment with making a Welsh woolen quilt.

My plan is to use as much of my own hand spun wool yarn as possible together with wool yarn from other rare British sheep breeds. I’m going to weave fabric on my table loom, I’m not sure yet whether to weave individual squares or longer strips of fabric. Smaller squares allows for more variability and experimentation in the fabric design but longer strips would be more practical with fewer seams. I’m still pondering what to choose and might go for a compromise of a bit of each.

I’ve bought a number of coloured warp yarns to experiment with. I’ve decided to stick to using my hand spun yarn for the weft to start with. Here’s a picture of the warp yarns I’ve got to play with.

As you can see there are a variety of colours and thicknesses.

I’m currently still getting all my fleeces spun but I’m starting to plan various weaves and have a pattern book of 600 different weaves to work through and choose from. Once I’ve woven all the woolen fabric I’ll need to sew the squares or strips together then create the quilt sandwich. I’ll be using a commercial wool batting the first time because I think it will be easier to work with and less time consuming than the traditional hedgerow collected wool. Depending on how the weaving goes I’ll either use a cotton fabric backing or more hand woven wool fabric. Weight and ease of quilting will also be considerations when deciding on cotton or wool for the backing but ideally I’d like to use my handwoven woolen fabric.

Having read The Wool Quilt by Jean Dubois I’m planning on quilting my Welsh woolen quilt as I would a cotton patchwork quilt and as the original Welsh quilters did, rather than tying it. Lots of sources advise that wool quilts can only be tied, thickness of the fabric often given as the reason for this but in her book Jean Dubois challenges this view and clearly shows that woolen quilts don’t have to be tied. This article describes what tying a quilt means     http://www.wikihow.com/Hand-Tie-a-Quilt

Once I’ve settled on the design for my fabrics and quilt I’ll post some more details and hopefully it won’t be too long until I have my first Welsh Woolen quilt.

The Wool Project: Weaving

A few weeks ago I posted about all the kit I had managed to get second hand to get me started spinning and weaving the wool from our Jacob sheep. There’s been a bit of delay getting my spinning wheel but it should be here this week. In the meantime I’ve been experimenting with my Leclerc Dorothy four shaft table loom. Although it didn’t come with any instructions the Leclerc website has all the instructions for all the looms they make available for free. http://www.leclerclooms.com/draw_inst/Draw_inst.htm

Here’s a picture of the loom

It fits nicely on a table top and I tend to use it standing up. You can get special stands/tables that position the loom at a suitable height for sitting at as well. The coloured leavers on the right hand side of the loom raise and lower each of four shafts, in the picture you can only see two of the levers because the other two were raised . Depending on how you warp your loom and then in what order and combination you lift the levers you can produce different patterns of weave.

To weave you need to put a warp on running from front to back through the wire heddles on each shaft and through the reed which you can see leaning back against the castle of the loom. As you lift the shafts using the coloured leavers a gap is created called the shed. Using a shuttle the weft yarn is taken through this gap, the shed, beaten into place by moving the reed forward and then the position of the shafts changed.

Here’s a picture of a boat shuttle and stick shuttle. Boat shuttles are more expensive than stick shuttles but so much easier to work with. As you can see the boat shuttle has a spindle in the centre whereas with the stick shuttle you simply wind the wool around the shuttle. Having a shuttle as wide or wider than the width of fabric that you are weaving also makes the process a lot easier because you simply pass it from hand to hand through the shed of the warp.

If you read about weaving at all you’ll find a lot of information about how to warp your loom. Essentially you can warp front to back or back to front. It is quite time consuming but I found I got a lot quicker after doing it the first time. So far I’ve used a direct warping method using a warp peg simply because it’s the quickest way and I wanted to get weaving. If you google direct warping you’ll find lots of info and videos about how to do it. Essentially you tie your warp thread onto the back beam of the loom , put your cone or ball of warp thread on the floor behind the loom then take a loop of the warp thread, pass through a wire heddle of one of the four shafts, though the reed and around the warp peg . The warp peg is a small wooden peg that you attach to a table edge at whatever distance will give you the length you want for your warp and therefore piece of fabric. You continue taking loops of warp thread passing them over or under the back beam alternately until you have warped the width that you want. This method does mean you have two warp threads passing though each gap in the reed. With thin yarns this isn’t a problem but with thicker yarns you may, depending on which reed you use, struggle to move the reed or create a shed to weave with.If you’d rather have single warp yarn leave a gap between each as you warp and then move one yarn along into that gap.

Obviously if you want to weave a very long piece of fabric you may not have the space to use a warp peg. So, an alternative method of measuring your warp is to use a warping board. Essentially this is a frame or piece of wood with dowling pegs a set distance apart so you can easily measure the correct length of warp by simply winding your yarn around the pegs. Warping boards aren’t cheap so we found some measurements on line and made our own. Here’s a picture

Once you’ve wound your warp yarn onto the board you have to transfer it to the loom. I haven’t tried that yet but there are several methods to avoid it all turning into a knotty mess.

I’ve mentioned the four shafts and moving them in a certain order to make patterns. Each shaft has wire heddles which you thread the warp yarn through. As you raise a shaft the yarn is raised by the heddles and then lowered when you drop the shaft. For a beginner a simple weave is to warp in the order 1,2,3,4. This means that the first warp yarn is threaded through a heddle on shaft 1 the second warp yarn through a heddle on shaft 2 and so on in a repeating pattern. When weaving you lift shafts 1 and 3 together, place the weft yarn using your shuttle then lower shaft 1 and 3 and raise shaft 2 and 4. In this way different warp yarns are raised and lowered over and under each weft yarn creating a weave.

 I haven’t got any Hooters Hall Jacob wool yet so I bought some Jacob wool yarns. Here’s a picture, as you can see I’ve got two lighter coloured yarns one thin one thick. I’ve used these as warp and did find the thinner yarn easier to deal with. However, I think having a different reed would make a big difference. I’ve been using the darker wool as my weft. I wanted to use contrasting colours so it would be easier to see any mistakes.

This is a picture of my first attempt.

I was really pleased with this. There were a few places where I had skipped a warp yarn but this is easily rectified. I did a zig zag stitch with the sewing machine across the end to finish off. the fabric has a lovely drape and I was suprised how easy it was to sew on the sewing machine.

I’ve also tried experimenting with a thicker yarn for the warp. For my first attempt I had direct warped the loom and had two warps going through each space in the reed. With the reed I have this made it very difficult to move the reed and I also struggled to create a decent shed. I think if I had a different size reed this could be resolved. In this close up you can see that the warps are made up of two yarns.

Finally I tried using the thick warp again but only singly. This made it easier to move the reed and to create a decent shed to pass the weft through. Obviously with only a single warp and using a contrasting weft you get more of a checked pattern.

Out of all three I prefer the first attempt mainly because of the drape and softness of the fabric.

I’m planning on getting some different sized reeds and to start following some weaving patterns to create fabrics with different patterns.

For anyone thinking about trying weaving I would definitely recommend Deborah Chandler’s Learning to Weave book. This is focused on weaving with a four shaft table loom, so if you have a rigid heddle or floor loom, it may not be the best choice but I found the explanations and directions really helpful. You can get a copy from our Amazon bookshop here’s the link: http://astore.amazon.co.uk/hoote-21/detail/159668139X