Process Stories: Step away from the loom

This is a process story.  If you don't like process stories, you can take a look at the picture, then scroll to the next post.  But if you want to know what a weaver sometimes goes through, then...

Sometimes you just have to take a step back, to walk away.

I’ve had a situation like that recently.  I’m a pretty careful weaver.  I have an Excel spreadsheet that I use to calculate how much warp and weft I need for each project.  I weigh my yarns, start and finish. I make samples. 

Recently, I started a new line of liturgical stoles.  I made the first stole - the gold and white Star of Bethlehem stole - from materials I had on hand.  I weighed my weft yarn before I started and when I finished, so I knew exactly how much I used.  Based on this, I ordered more yarn.  When it came, I measured off what I used before, plus a 10% cushion, three times, and died the yarns for the red, green and purple stoles.  

I tied on the green warp and started weaving the green stole.  It wasn't long before it became evident that I would run out of weft yarn before the stole was finished.  What went wrong?  I had measured, I had weighed, I double checked all of my calculations.  Everything thing was correct.  But that didn’t change the fact that I would run out of yarn about 8 inches before the optimal length for a stole.   

So I looked carefully at the weaving.  Two things were happening. One, the weft was packing in more densely - not much, but enough to be noticeable.  Close examination showed that the 20/2 silk from my stash that I used for the warp of the white and gold stole was just a little heavier than the recently purchased yarn for the green warp.  I don’t know why.  Probably for the same reason that cans of tomatoes are smaller and there’s now just four pounds of sugar in a five pound sack.  Finer warp means more closely packed weft for the same amount of coverage.  

The second thing was that the dyed yarn was more pliable than the white yarn for the first stole.  More pliability meant that the went over and under the warp threads on a more curved path.  Imagine a windy road versus a straight one.  The windy one is longer going between two points than the straight road.  Between these two things, I was using up yarn faster than I should have been.  

What to do?

I admit, I was tempted to cut the whole thing off, fold it up, put it away and never look at it again.  What I did instead was walk away from the loom.  I got out my spinning wheel and some lovely fine merino top from my stash.  I spun for a week.  I tried not to think about the loom in the other room.   But in the back of my mind, I formed a plan.

But that trick never works!

I decided to dye up some more yarn.  I didn’t need much.  It was likely - even probable - that the second batch would not match the first, but I didn’t have much to loose.

I’m very systematic about my dye process. I weigh my fibers to the gram with a digital scale.  I measure my dye stock solutions to the milliliter with a syringe.  I keep careful notes.  Even so, rarely do yarns dyed separately come out the same.  That’s why commercial yarns have dye lot numbers.  And with a solid colored project, any variation is immediately noticeable.  But, again, not much to loose.

Then a miracle happened:

It worked!  

I just finished weaving the last eight inches of the green stole and cut it off the loom.  I feel an incredible sense of relief.  I’m also really glad I took the time to walk away.  Even though it put me behind schedule, it gave me perspective and a chance to consider my options, formulate a plan and the inner calm to successfully carry it out.