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.

[NOTE: It was pointed out to me in the comments that there's a missing blank row between rows 3 and 4, counting up from the bottom, that would shift the pattern threads into their naturally up positions. It doesn't change the technique as I show it, or how to read the chart, but it would make the pickup and dropping of pattern threads easier, since the up thread would be more likely to be up.]

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!

14 comments:

  1. Hello, I have a question. I wonder if you might have some idea why I keep messing this up. I have Anne Dixon 's inkle pattern directory and I bought is specifically to do the Baltic pattern 13-2 the bottom design that looks like a snow flake. I understand how to do the picking up and dropping pattern threads. But where I seem to be having a problem is where so e lines of the pattern have 6 pattern threads showing then the next row will have 7 pattern threads showing. Somehow I keep confusing these rows so that my pattern starts having floating threads where is shouldn't. Does that make any sense at all?i have been weaving and un weaving so many times that I just do not know what to do to get this worked out. Lol! Let me know if you don't have the book and I will show you the pattern I am trying to do. Thank you very much ahead of time. :)

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    1. I've got the pattern. Can you try explaining the problem you're having through either my Contact page (top of the page, under the line), or in a message on my Facebook page? I'm not sure I entirely understand, and it will be easier to troubleshoot in either format. Thanks, and I hope I can help!

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  2. This video is great thank you so much !!!!

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  3. Thank you, Edyth, for the great tutorial. It's great that one can watch and weave simultaneously with the ability to compare what's on the screen to what's in front of us. It took me 3 starts before what you were saying and showing actually sunk in. Once it did, though, I could easily ensure that the patterns threads and the background threads were where they were supposed to be according to the pattern. Pick up weaving, here I come!

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  4. This is so helpful! I haven't tried it yet, honestly, but just reading through it there's finally something that makes sense! I recently learned to inkle weave when my 20 year SCA veteran husband threw me into Pennsic as my first event. I have wanted to learn to do patterns but even websites and books that claim to explain "how to do patterns" just gloss right over and go right into the pattern. Just reading your blog entry here, even before watching the video, I feel like I am starting to "get it", and I'm a visual learner, not even one that gets something just from reading. I have a belt from Zemgale, Latvia where my grandfather was born in the Baltic, so it's extra special that your blog entry is about a Baltic pattern. Thank you!

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  5. Thank you so much. I was so lost and finding so little to help me. As a new weaver, altogether, verbal explanations made no real sense to me. This help tremendously.

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  6. Thank you for the video. I was staring at my snowflake pattern (13-2 mentioned above) as a starting point for a new loom I got for Christmas and couldn't wrap (warp?) ;) my head around dotted color squares, and undotted uncolor squares. Your video made it all so simple that I can ignore the dots and concentrate on numbering the pattern columns and rows. Perhaps a very ambitious starting point for the inkle, but you've helped me figure it out and I coudn't be happier with my first project.

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    1. That's great to hear! I'm the same way- I like to jump right into the intermediate stuff first, too. I'm glad my video helped you make sense of the method, and that you have many more projects on your new loom in the future!

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    2. http://www.ravelry.com/projects/beckyinma/first-inkle There it is. It's finished and made into key ring wristlets, and I'm tickled with how it came out. Thanks agin!

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    3. That looks great! I love the color combo. Inkle weaving looks to be a natural talent for you ;) Awesome job!

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  7. I've had such a devil of a time trying to wrap my head around this, read the books, watched youtube videos..and then I found you. Thank you for explaining this so simply. I finally understand.

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  8. This really helped. I own many books describing this as well as other documents. I wasn't realizing that the back ground threads are not also picked up and dropped. You've made all the difference. Thanks!!❤️

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  9. In the video there is an error: You need to insert 1 more row between rows 3 and 4, where pattern thread 2 and 4 should have been dropped with no pattern threads showing. Then when you just needed pattern #3 it would have been naturally up with 1, 3, 5. At that point you would only need to drop 1 and 5.

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    1. Yes, I see what you're pointing out. It doesn't change the technique, but it does change the "effort" involved in picking up and dropping. An added row there would change the pickups to work more naturally with what's already up. Thanks for pointing that out.

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