Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Baltic-Style Pick-up Inkle Weaving
Each month I'm presenting a new tutorial on a medieval skill from various types of textile-related crafts. The purpose is two-fold. First, it will allow me to locate, study, and try a variety of new techniques I might otherwise overlook, and second, it's an easy way to get information out there about skills that other people might be looking for or find helpful. This month, I present Baltic-Style pick-up Inkle Loom Weaving.
First, I have to advance apologize for how much text leads up to the visuals. Trust me, you'll be better off muddling through the text.
After learning how to inkle weave using the plain weave technique, I ran into a bit of a brick wall. Try as I might, I simply could not locate the informative visual instructions online that I needed to be able to understand both how to set up the loom and work a pickup weave. For some reason, all the tutorials sort of skim over the warping as if it wasn't important. Luckily, for Christmas, I received a great book that really got me pointed in the right direction. I highly recommend The Inkle Weaver's Pattern Directory by Anne Dixon. While she's highly technically oriented, it answers some key questions for the beginner and has a great collection of ideas.
With plain weave inkle weaving, the only technical thing you really need to pay attention to as you weave is whether or not your shed is up or down. Sort of mindless, really, once you get the hang of it. You are, however, limited to few categories of patterns. To achieve more complexity in the pattern as you weave, you have to start manipulating where your warp threads are in relation to the weft. In other words, you stop relying on the regular over/under pattern of plain weaving, and you start to, literally, mess with the order. If you like controlled chaos, you'll love pickup inkle weaving. There are several types of pick-up weaving techniques, and each results in a different type of pattern offering. I find, however, that Baltic-style is an easy technique for achieving the sorts of angled patterns SCA folk tend to gravitate toward.
In Baltic-style pickup weaving, there are two categories of warp threads. Pattern threads are the warp threads that create the pattern in the weave. Background threads (or ground threads) are the threads that fill the weave around the pattern. As you manipulate threads to create a pattern, you're only dealing with pattern threads. Background threads are never shifted out of their regular over/under sequence. The background threads keep the whole inkle weave from falling apart, providing a regularly woven platform for the pattern to be worked on. You can also remind yourself to leave the background threads alone by remembering that Pattern and Pick-up both start with P.
I just mentioned that the pattern is worked "on" the inkle weave. That was a deliberate choice of words. Since the ground threads are creating a woven band as you go, your pattern threads work mostly independently. In order for the pattern to not get lost in the regular weave, it needs to (for lack of a better word) overpower the ground. The easiest way to achieve that is to use pattern threads that are thicker than the background threads. Another option is to double (or more) the number of individual strands per pattern thread. For example, I can use a single strand for each ground thread and two strands for each pattern thread. From now on, as I explain warping, when I say "thread", I mean the entire group of strands working together as a single warpped thread. So if you're using a thicker pattern thread, I mean that one thread, and if you're using three threads together to bulk up your pattern threads, I'm talking about those three threads together.
In order to facilitate everything above, the basic rule for many varieties of pick-up inkle weaving is that you encase every one of your pattern threads between background threads. Your entire pattern warping scheme, therefore, is made up of groups of three warp threads: a background, a pattern, a background. This also means that in-between each pattern thread, you'll have two background threads. If I was working a red and green band, with red as my pattern, here's what that would look like:
Clear as mud? Maybe this video will help clear that up:
In Baltic-style pick-up weaving, you can think of the pattern and the warp as separate things (even though they aren't). For the warp, you follow the same types of pattern diagrams used with plain weave. Alternating heddled and open threads as you go. Here's the warping diagram for the pattern I'm using in this tutorial:
I've included a few threads on the edges for a border, and my five brown pattern threads alternate between heddled and open in the middle. This tells you nothing, however, about what the intended pattern is. For the pattern, you follow a chart. My chart looks like this:
Charts show at least one "repeat" of the pattern, and are typically read from bottom to top (in the same direction you inkle weave.) Pattern threads are represented the colored blocks, but it's really not so clear cut. What's actually going on is that each colored block represents that the thread a that point should be picked-up to be above the weft, while blocks that are white indicate that the thread at that point should be pushed down below the weft. In my pattern, the longest a thread will be carried above the weft is 5 picks, and that's a good max length. Beyond that, you risk your pattern threads getting minds of their own and catching on stuff. Also take note that the pattern completely disregards the background threads. Again, you leave those alone and let them weave naturally as you raise and lower the shed.
Alright, enough talk. The easiest way for me to share with you how to accomplish this technique is by video. You can ignore the part when I talk about using an orange weft in a "previous video"- I decided that it wasn't worth sharing that other video.
So, there you have it. Hope you learned something new!