Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's Not Easy to Be Square

One of the Weaving Guilds that I am a member of - the Dallas Handweavers and Spinners Guild, is sponsoring a study group on the Overshot Weave structure. As a fairly inexperienced weaver, I joined the group in hopes of learning something about the weave structure that most people think of when they think of handweaving.

Since I have never woven an overshot project, I decided I should weave a sample just to try the structure out. So, I picked out a design from the book Weaving Designs by Bertha Gray Hayes.

I looked through my yarn stash to see what I had on hand that would work for my little sample and came up with 8/2 cotton. I found several different cotton possibilties for weft.

3/2 Cotton Weft
After some research, I found that an overshot warp should be set like the yarn would be set for a loose plain weave. For the 8/2 cotton, I decided on 18 epi. I put a short warp on my loom - just two and a half yards about 12 inches wide.

Once the weaving began, I quickly discovered that obtaining a nicely squared pattern was not going to be easy. According to the texts I read, the overshot pattern weft should be about the weight of two strands of the warp.

The first weft I tried was the red 3/2 cotton in the first photo. While it looked pretty, the pattern is obviously far from being square.

Next I tried two strands of 5/2 cotton in blue. This was better, but still not square.

In my stash, I had some green 16/2 cotton , so I used 4 strands of it as weft figuring that would be equal in weight to two strands of 8/2 cotton. The result was better but still not square. I started beating my weft in more firmly. I beat as hard as I could. The pattern got closer to square, but still it was not there. You can see in the photo where I started off beating not as firmly and toward the top began beating harder.
At this point I was a bit frustrated. I started thinking of things that might make the weft beat in better and decided a temple would do it. So, I used my temple to keep the warp spread to it's maximum width - by this time I had switched to two strands of navy 8/2 cotton - and the result was almost square. But, it was still not square enough.

More frustrated, I got out my Peggy Osterkamp books, and found out that my weaving method is not what she recommends. I had been told when I started weaving to always beat the weft in on a closed shed. That's what I have always done, and so far it worked.

Peggy Osterkamp's recommended way to weave is that you beat - or rather place your weft - on an open shed, then immediately change to the next shed. The theory is that you place your weft with the beater while the warp is as wide as the reed makes it be, then before you move the beater away from the fell, change to the next shed.

Peggy's recommended weaving sequence is throw the shuttle, beat the weft, change to the next shed the push the beater away from the fell. Peggy also recommended a very tight warp.

I decided to give these suggestions a try.

I tightened my warp. I tried out the new weaving sequence - very slowly. I found my weaving rhythm really out of sync, but I made myself keep on going. It was worth the effort because my design is finally square.

I am still out of sync, rhythm wise, but I am not sure you can ever really get a rhythm in an overshot pattern. The treadles are constantly changing and the shuttles are changing as well. I suppose time will tell about that.

Sometimes, I learn really unexpected things when I am trying to learn something else.

Now I wish I had made that sample warp a little longer.