The last week has shown some progress on the velvet project. I met with Chris, my friend who is doing the cantra design (and probably most of the build), and we talked about the design. He thinks we can do better than the traditional cantra design, which involves a bunch of spools on a rod suspended in the frame. (For the curious, Peggy Osterkamp has some great photos of velvet looms on her blog.)
Here’s a photo I took of one of Barbara Setsu-Pickett’s velvet cantras (which is designed to break down neatly and fit into a suitcase). It’s only partially populated with bobbins, but you get the idea. A full cantra would be packed with bobbins edge to edge.
A weight hung over each spool acts as a brake, and another weight tensions the design. Here’s a pic I took of an individual weighted spool in the same cantra:
With 440 threads to warp, and two weights for each thread, that means managing 880 weights. Oy.
Excitingly, the only way to remove a spool from the center of the rack is to pull out the rod until you get to the spool you want to change. Simultaneously, you insert another rod from the other side to hold the spools on the other side. This obviously requires significant dexterity. It also has obvious potential for hilarity, should you lose your grip on the rod. Bobbins on the floor everywhere!
Chris has proposed a simple design modification to remedy both of those issues. Simply put a tray under each rack, lined or coated with something that adds a little friction. Each bobbin fits into a slot in the tray, and a rod runs through the bobbins. Here’s his schematic of the tray:
When you want to change out the spools/bobbins, simply remove the rod. The tray holds the bobbins while you swap out the one you’d like to change. No risk of bobbin hijinks.
The tray also allows us to replace the brake weight with friction against the tray, most likely by lining it with something that will add drag. (I’m thinking some of that rubber coating that is used on tools, but we’ll have to experiment.)
Obviously this is not something to be constructed by hand, but fortunately Chris has a 3D printer, which we can use to print the trays.
This is of course all experimental at this point, but at least it gives us a place to begin! Chris is working on a small prototype tray now, so we can see whether the idea works. If it does, then it’ll be on to the larger design.
Meanwhile, I have wound the foundation warp and dyed it. I used deep indigo blue, dark purple, and black for the dye colors, scattering them about at random and squishing to make sure the dye got into all parts of the warp. It appears solid black in the photo below, but after 24 hours of curing and another 24 or so hours of rinsing out, some blues and purples are starting to emerge. I was aiming for a variegated black or super dark blue, so I think I’ve succeeded. Another day or two of rinsing, then another day or two of drying, and I’ll be done.
I tried a new thing with this warp. Waaaaay back when, someone (Debbie Kaplan, I think) had told me about protecting fine-thread skeins from tangling by “crocheting” a thread around the skein to help keep it together without compressing it. Since tangling can be a problem with warps that need a lot of rinsing, I tried that on this warp. Here’s a pic of what I did:
So far it seems to be working, holding the warp together without unduly squishing it. I’ll find out if it was effective when I actually put the warp onto the loom.
Since I will have to tie 2,200 knots to get the velvet warp and the painted warps samples onto the loom (yes – I am gasping for breath too), I decided to get a new tool: the Mesdan Fisherman’s Knotter. You lay two threads in it, under slight tension, pull the trigger, and presto! It knots the threads together and clips the ends.
It’s not entirely unlike the Boyce Weaver’s Knotters that show up periodically on eBay. Except that this one isn’t a worn-out antique, but a new one. It also ties a much more robust knot – here’s a pic from the Mesdan catalog that shows the knots tied by the Fisherman’s and Weaver’s Knotters:
I was going to buy the Weavers Knotter, but the technician at AB Carter (where I bought it) told me the fisherman’s knotter would be much better for slippery fine fibers, such as my beloved 60/2 silk, or like the rayon embroidery thread I’m planning to use in the velvet warp. He also said he thought the ergonomics of the Fisherman’s Knotter would be better.
Here’s a YouTube demonstration of the Mesdan Fisherman’s Knotter in action:
I’m still not entirely sure how helpful it will be. I worry about repetitive stress thumb injuries with the knotter – so will have to test it and also take frequent breaks. I expect it will be faster and more secure than tying knots by hand, though!
I’ll leave you with a lovely rose (yes, ours are STILL blooming!), and a gorgeous autumn tree (autumn starts in late November here!).
And, of course, the inevitable cat. Here’s Tigress on her favorite shelf, generously distributing cat hair over all my clean clothes. (I love her anyway.)