Weaving circles with two shedding devices
As soon I began weaving with two shedding devices a lightbulb went off. I tend to want fine detailed work in my pieces, yet I often feel overwhelmed by the time those processes take, especially since having an baby – I just don’t have the time I used to. So, weaving with two shedding devices (and therefore two different EPI) seems to be the perfect compromise: I get my tight dense weave (which makes me swoon), but I can also whip off a circle or two during Sam’s nap and feel productive.
This piece is woven using Mirrix’s wool as warp and these naturally dyed yarns as weft, which is a bulky weight wool yarn. The indigo weft is a double strand of fingering merino. I set up the shedding devices to have one weaving tabby at 12 ends per inch and the other weaving basket weave at 6 end per inch. The basket weave set-up is essentially tabby when woven since it is weft faced – the main thing is that it changes the ends per inch and therefore affords the weaver the ability to weave finely and not-so-finely in the same piece. My design features mostly circles and I have just been picking the colors as I go. I have been a little picky and even unwove one circle ’cause the color placement just wasn’t right. I wanted to create one pill shaped to interrupt the repeat pattern and create some interesting negative space and more indigo (this is key! I love indigo.), as well quite a long slit which I’ll sew up before I take it off the loom – I just wasn’t into interlocking this time ’round. There is also going to be an indigo worsted weight circle in there, probably closer to the top.
Okay now let’s talk weaving circles. I, like Claudia, always draw my circle right on the warp and follow it precisely. This means covering up the drawing completely. I’m not super picky about my circles being exactly symmetrical so my stepping will not be the exact same on all sides, but I do want to point out a couple of things about the stepping on a circle.
1) You do not necessarily need to decreasing until you run out of warp threads. If you operate under this assumption you may end up with points, of course unless you are making tiny circles (so this entirely depends on your ends per inch and the size of your circle.) But if you’re weaving large ones, the top and bottom of your circle might be 8 ends each like mine (that’s talking in basket weave set up, so 6 epi, since my circles are made using the second shedding device using the thicker yarn).
2) Similarly my circles have a middle area which have no stepping at all – they go straight up, mirroring the top and bottom – mine are 11 wefts (or picks) high.
3) If like me you enjoy the kilim-esque look of stepping and slits you needn’t read on, but if you require a nicely rounded circle you could try outlining your circle using the sumac stitch. I recently asked Kathe Todd Hooker (who writes these great tapestry weaving books and will be also posting about weaving circles on her blog soon) about this and she put it like this “You can outline in sumac in the colour of the base or the colour of the circle as you go. Weave the circle and when you reach the top sumac in either the circle colour or the fill in colour around the circle. It’s done while you are weaving. Also pay attention to whether you are moving up on a hill or a valley thread. The trick is to remember if you go up on a valley thread the weft sinks and the turn is lower. If you rise on a hill thread the weft pass stays higher. So you can jump up and pull the corner off of a stairstep and hold it in place by weaving lower then the stairstep”
Also, since using the double shedding device I also encountered the idea of going between my doubled wefts to make a smoother rounded edge. For me this realization occurred naturally as I realized I wasn’t always going to be able to pick up two warps when filling in the indigo with my thicker circle shape. Naturally this creates smaller steps. You could do this with with one shedding device too, it will just require twice as much warp. You would warp up with a spring that has twice as many dents as you want to weave with and when you install your heddles pick up two warps at a time for each heddle instead of one. This way when you weave two warps will lift at once for each heddle and when you encounter curved lines you can be more precise and gradual by sometimes going between those two warps to make smaller steps.
Tomorrow I’ll be at the New York Handweavers Guild meeting demonstrating my Mirrix. If you’re in the area, come say hi.
PS there’s also this post about weaving a circle.