Sunday, November 30, 2014

Baltic-Style Pick-Up Inkle Weaving, Cont.

At RUM last weekend, I had the opportunity to learn a bit more about Baltic-Style Inkle Weaving from Lady Kateline Eliot. I think it's always a great idea to take classes offered by others that cover topics or crafts that I've learned on my own, to give myself the chance to find out more or see the topic from a different perspective. I'm really glad I did in this case.

For the most part, Kateline reinforced what I'd learned. (It's a great feeling knowing you're not on a page all by yourself!) She also mentioned three things about the Baltic Style that I either did not previously know, didn't really cover in my own tutorials, or were different than how I'd understood the technique.

I had the chance to speak with Kateline before leaving to get a bit more clarification from her on the item that was really different from my experience, and I walked away incredibly inspired to start up a new weave and address my three notes for myself.

Please consider these three observations to be additions to my Baltic-Style Pick-Up Inkle Weaving tutorial.

1. Pattern threads are arranged in such a way that they come in paired sets (each set contains a heddled and unheddled pattern thread), PLUS a final single pattern thread (instead of a full pair) at the end. That final, single thread allows for the range of patterns that are possible with the technique. If you didn't have that final pattern thread, you wouldn't be able to create a symmetrical circle, for instance. This also means that the total number of pattern threads will always be an odd number in the Baltic-Style method.

2. Technically speaking, it doesn't really matter whether it's your heddled or unheddled pattern threads that are in the up position when you start your pattern manipulation. You're going to be manipulating the pattern threads anyway, so there's no real difference between the sheds when you get right down to it. It DOES matter, however, if you'd prefer to save the work and trouble of always needing to manipulate on every weft pass. [NOTE: In the comments below, Herb noted from experimentation that the threads could appear more "suppressed" in their form when they are pulled from their natural positions. So while it might not technically matter, there may be an aesthetic advantage to not having to manipulate the natural up or down position of the threads.]

Because your total number of pattern threads is an odd number, when they are warped, there will be an even number of pattern threads on one shed and an odd number on the other. This exactly coincides with the way grid patterns are arranged.

Pink squares represent pattern threads. Either the even or the odd row could be the heddled row.

If you are creating your own pattern and you have a design in mind, establish the color changes on the chart first. Then, look at the pattern and determine which rows are arranged to take advantage of the odd row and which take advantage of the even row. (It may or may not be immediately clear.)

In this pattern, I created an arch design. The pale pink squares represent the threads I would need to pick up, and the gray squares represent the dropped threads. The dark pink squares show where threads are not manipulated out of their natural positions.

If you're not trying to create a particular pattern, and are starting from scratch without a clear goal in mind, you can set up your chart with the odd and even rows marked (place dots on the squares of any threads that would be naturally up on that row), and build your pattern around that.

The circles represent threads that are currently up on that row.

There may be areas of your pattern that simply do not conform to the odd/even pattern, and that's okay- you just want to establish which shed is the best to start with for the least amount of manipulation throughout the majority of the pattern.

3. In my (albeit limited) experience with the Baltic-style method, I have yet to experience an issue where the background threads interfere with areas of pattern that are meant to look like solid pieces. This was not the case for Kateline, however, so I was prompted to talk this over with her and to look into this when I got home.

Generally speaking, the thicker pattern threads should fill out over the background threads, concealing them. (This is the primary reason you need thicker pattern threads.) It may be the case, however, that the difference in thread thickness between background and pattern is not significant enough and/or the contrast between your colors is so strong that the background colors "poke through", disrupting the look of the design. If you're looking at your piece and seeing your background in areas that should be solid pattern, you might want to experiment with adjusting your tension first. If that doesn't change your results, experiment with dropping those background threads. This only makes sense within the solid areas, so don't drop all the backgrounds- just the ones that are interfering. Remember that it's the background threads that are forming the foundational weave. You don't want to manipulate those willy-nilly, or your finished band won't hold together as well as it should. If you're not seeing any background color in your solid pattern areas, don't manipulate the background threads at all.

I'm excited to have had the chance to look into Baltic-Style Pick-up inkle weaving again to learn more and further understand why the technique works the way it does. I started a narrow band using white and dark pink (crochet cotton) really just to help me wrap my mind around these concepts. I'm thinking of using it specifically for part of the kokoshnik portion of a new early Slavic veil I'm assembling to add to my headdress arsenal for teaching. Or my daughter could claim it, as she does with anything I make containing pink.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

On My Work Table

First off, I'm excited to let you know that I'll be teaching something at this fall's Royal University of the Midrealm (RUM) that's pretty dear to my heart. The class is titled "Blogging for SCAdians", and just as the name suggests, I'll be talking about starting up, maintaining, and keeping up with a blog geared specifically to a historical re-creationist audience. As you can imagine, I've got a lot to say on the subject. If you've been looking for that last bit of inspiration to start your own blog, need some insight into why your existing blog may not be going as well as you hoped, or just want the inside scoop on the back end of blogging, then I'd love to have you join me.

I'll also be teaching a class with a friend of mine on 15th Century upper class fashion. He's a lover of all things 15th Century, but he never really looked at women's clothing. I haven't studied men's clothing. So we're pooling our knowledge for a decade-by-decade look at the evolution of high class fashion for both sexes in the 15th Century. It is our hope that this class will open up our own research to broader avenues, and provide us with a better understanding of the larger picture surrounding our specific interests. And those who attend get to benefit as well! It's gonna be epic.

As far as projects go, I've had a bit of a motivational slump these past two weeks. (I say that, but I've actually been quite productive with non-SCA projects, like scrap booking and knitting.) I think I'm back on the upswing now, though. I want to have my ginger linen dress ready for RUM, but I'm worried that I held off on it a bit too long. I'm determined to sew it completely by hand, which takes time and patience. So we'll see. So far, I've sewn on the backing for the eyelets (the linen is pretty weak, so I really needed extra reinforcement there), and completed the finishing on the front and back center seams. I hope to have the side seams finished by the time I go to bed today. I haven't started the sleeves yet, and those tend to be my make-it-or-break-it component.

I also decided that I wanted to make something green for Christmas Tourney in December to go with their Midrealm colors theme (green, red and white). I decided on a new caplet to wear with my rose red dress. I've got a 7oz green linen for that. I may line it with some white faux fur I've got, or see about getting some white wool instead. Green is not a color I wear too often (I have a piece of gorgeous blue-green linen waiting to be made into a dress), but it's a good color to have in the wardrobe.

What else? I haven't made any new progress on my new silk embroidery, but after talking over some of the issues I was having on my linen alms purse with my Laurel, I've given that a slight reboot.

The first problem I had was that I didn't care for how the zig-zag background was coming out. I ripped it out, but then didn't know what to do. I was having tension issues, so the first thing that needed to happen was to take it off the frame I had it on, put it on a larger frame, then tension the other two edges.

The next thing to do is to begin creating a couched background using the zig-zag pattern I already drew out. I haven't gotten back to that yet. My plan is to use the gray linen for the field and couch it with either white or black linen sewing thread. I'll need to do a test to see which I like better.

For the back side, I had opted for a brick stitch pattern. As I started to work on it, I realized that I didn't care for the way the colors interacted with each other. The white was too glaring and the green and pink were not complimentary to each other. Here's how it looked:

I ripped out the pink and white, and swapped them:

Much better.

The last thing that's in the current queue is a much different type of project. I'll be covering this one over on Growing Up Medieval once I get it started. While browsing around Michael's a few weeks ago, I spent some time looking around in their wood crafts section and found a neat fold and carry castle.

It's perfect to take along to events. While I like the plain wood, I would rather paint it. I loved doll houses as a kid, and always really liked the details that were included on the walls, separate from the furniture and dolls I could move around. So I'll be painting both the outside and the inside. The outside will have details like knotted bedsheets hanging out of a window, bushes and flowers to indicate a garden, and maybe a cat or two. The inside will have a great hall, throne room, kitchen, king's chambers, queen's chambers, and as many interesting details as I can comfortably paint in (since I can't take it apart). I'll then be keeping my eyes open for the right scale of blank peg dolls to paint up to go with it.

But first, I gotta get that ginger linen dress done.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Tying a Turk's Head Knot

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 Turk's Head Knots.

In planning out my latest bag project, I made a note that I wanted to use turk's head knots on the tassels hanging at the base of the bag. This meant, of course, that I needed to learn how to create turk's head knots. And since you know I don't think anything is worth learning if I can't find a way to explain it to you all as well, here we go!

Turk's head knots are really just braids worked in a circle. There are several varieties of turk's heads, distinguished from each other by the number of times the knot works around the core, and the number of outside edge scallops that are produced.

In order to better understand how these knots are formed, there are a few knotting terms you should know. They are lead, bight and pass.

Leads (sorry for the blurry photo!)

Lead: Unlike braiding, where each strand in the braid has its own end, there's technically only 1 strand in a Turk's head knot (with a starting end and a working end.) So to distinguish the parts of a knot that the laymen might identify as strands from actual, honest strands, the term "lead" (with a long e) is used instead. Just like in a braid, the more leads in the knot, the more weaving is involved. The number of leads help classify the specific turk's head knot you are forming.

Bight: In general knot making terms, each u-shaped bend in the rope is called a "bight" (pronounced "bite"). In turk's head knots, these bends manifest themselves as scallops along the outside edge of the knot. This means that you can also classify the type of turk's head by the number of bights formed when it's complete. Even though bights are formed on both sides of the knot, they are only counted on one.

Pass: Since most turk's head knots are formed around a cylindrical core (such as a tassel), there's a point across the knot that marks when you've finished one portion of the knot and started the next. Visually, it's marked by where the starting end comes into the knot. Each time around the cylinder is called a pass, each pass forms a new lead, and each lead takes a unique path, creating a bight in the process. Pass = Lead = Path = Bight. The exception is the first lead, which is often created in the same pass as the second.

The other thing to know is that the turk's head knot is formed once all passes have been performed, and is then typically filled in by repeating the knot 1 or two more times. All of that repetition comes after the knot is actually formed, and has no bearing on the leads, bights and passes.

When you look out on the internet for "turk's head knot", you're likely going to first run into a 3 lead version, like this one (which is a 3 lead, 7 bight knot, BTW.) The problem with learning how to do turk's heads with a smaller number of leads is that you have to swap the leads manually in order to get the woven pattern correct. This isn't really a beginner-friendly thing. Once you understand the mechanics of the turk's head, however, it makes sense and is much easier to perform.

For this tutorial, I'm going to walk you through a 5 lead, 4 bight turk's head. This means that the knot will be completed (minus any repeats) once 5 leads are in place and the edge of the knot has 4 scalloped bends (the bights). This produces what's known as a square turk's head, and really highlights that the knot is woven together.

And speaking of weaving, here's a thought that might help you going in: turk's head knots aren't just "knotted". They are formed by an over-under working pattern. As you create the knot, you are weaving the strand with itself.

You don't have to start with a tassel. You'll need some type of sturdy string or cord, a tapestry needle, and a small diameter cylinder to work around. The size of cylinder you need is directly connected to the thickness of your string. If you're using a heavy crochet cotton, the diameter of a AA battery is nearly perfect. Your finger would also work, but I'd save that for when you've got a few successful knots under your belt.

Ready? Let's do this thing:

So here are some of the take-aways:

Remember that all woven things require strands worked in (at least) two different directions. The first pass of the knot creates the first two leads and sets up the two directions- that first X. This also establishes your over/under pattern, since lead 1 goes under lead 2. The remainder of the knotting pattern is based off this.

The knot is formed from the outside in. More specifically, the two edges are formed, then the additional leads work their way between them back to the start. This is different from traditional weaving, which starts on one end and works across the piece to the other end. When you place a new lead, you can use the first lead as a guide for what you need to do when you cross the third, fourth and fifth leads. Simply count out the over/under pattern for the leads that aren't there yet up to the one you're working.

Every pass is creating a bight. The bight appears before the lead's pass crosses through the knot on its way back to the left. So you go all the way to the right, then turn back (creating the bight), and go all the way to the left. Turk's heads with more bights may require additional trips back across- it depends on the lead to bight ratio.

Remember when you get to the tightening point to BE PATIENT. Take it a section at a time, and don't worry if it feels like you're just going around in circles not accomplishing anything. You are making an impact, and the knot will look much better for the effort.

I hope that this all makes sense and helps you see the mechanics of how turk's heads are formed, and why they are worked in the manner they are. I've tried my best here to break it down so you can see the mechanics and not simply the method. This doesn't mean that your first attempt not watching the video will be an automatic success, just that I hope you'll be better equipped to remember the method by being able to think through it. Good luck!

I'd love to see your knots- you can share them with me over on Facebook!