My Swap Swatch Project

Right after we had our actual swapping of swatches, I promised to tell you all about my project.  I got diverted by serious internet problems and all sorts of small but annoying problems out here on the property.  Most of those have happily been resolved.  Our internet is up and running and faster than ever.  All it took was another very long call to and an upgrade to our package.  The Kawasaki mule came back to life all on it's own.  Ron managed to get it into drive and back to neutral and the engine started right up.  Turns out this is a common problem so we may see it again but for now all is well. The heater/AC unit in the tack room finally gave up the ghost and has been replaced with a happy machine that uses less electricity and has a much better temperature control.  The three new goats are settling in and all the rest of the livestock seem to be happy and content.  Whew!  Time for a big sigh of general relief and perhaps a mint julep in honor of the Kentucky Derby.  But back to the swap swatch....

"Cotton to the Power of 10/2" 

Our theme for the 2016 Swap Swatch was "Cotton to the Power of 10/2". That's a reference to size 10/2 cotton yarn.  We could do anything we wanted as long as the only thing we used was 10/2 cotton.  This is a fine cotton, finer than anything I'd ever woven with which was sort of exciting.  I made a very foolish proclamation several years ago that I would weave some cotton fabric for Civil War era aprons.  One for Peggy and one for me.  They would be perfect to wear with our long dresses and hoop skirts at the Liendo Plantation reenactment where we demonstrate every November.  The 10/2 cotton would be perfect! 

The design for this fabric had to include colors that would go with all of the long dresses Peggy and I own.  That meant including some red, blue and green colors.  Between us we have solid and print fabric dresses so something on a white or off-white background would be best.  Putting all those requirements together I decided to do an overshot pattern.  Overshot involves pattern threads that ride on top of a ground cloth.  It's the pattern of all those old coverlets but is also commonly used as stripes of design to accent plain weave fabric.  I wanted the stripes to be vertical.  No one of my size does well with horizontal stripes even if they are stunningly gorgeous.  OK.  Turned overshot it is.  Did I say I've never done overshot before?  Another challenge for this project.

I ordered the yarn and asked some friends what a good sett would be.  That's how close the warp threads are to each other.  I needed a fabric that would be soft and flow but not so loose that it isn't stable.  My fabric would be the widest I can weave on my Gilmore loom - about 38" - with five vertical stripes, each stripe of only one color.  Great!  I have a plan.

Pick the pattern including size, sett, stripes, colors.  Overshot requires that the pattern warp is two or three times thicker than the plain weave warp.  This means I had double the number of pattern warp threads.  Easy peasy.  Check!

Wind the warp... well, yeah.  I didn't want to worry about where the stripes would go exactly so I wound the warp for the plain weave ground cloth only.  I'll add the stripes separately.  Yeah, what could go wrong?  Serious error #1!

Winding the stripes later means I have a bunch of small groups of warp threads that are not wound around the warp beam.  They just sort of hang out at the back of the loom so I have to keep adjusting them and the tension is never quite right.


Thread the heddles... well, yeah.  I'll get all the plain weave ground cloth threaded and since the stripes all go on the back four harnesses I'll be fine. Yeah, what could go wrong?  Serious error #2!

It would have been fine to thread the stripes later if I had left empty heddles in the right spaces.  Once you pass that spot in the warp you can't move empty heddles over to accept the pattern stripes.  I had to un-thread and re-thread a lot of warp to fix the issue.  Let's see.  That would be 7 inches wide in the reed times 20 threads per inch equals about 140.

Count the heddles... well, yeah.  Did I have enough heddles on each harness?  Nope.  I know that this is something you should always check before you start threading because adding more heddles in the middle is a horrible pain in the ass.  Serious error #3!


This is how you add heddles if you're smart.  You pull the harness frame off the loom and sit in your comfy office chair and add heddles to your heart's content.  If you omit this step you crawl around under your loom and bend yourself sideways to add the heddles.  Swearing often does help a little.



Sley the reed...Check!

Tie the warp onto the front beam... Wait!  Lets do a completely new to me technique.  I'll lash the bouts onto the front beam.  This was fairly tedious and took longer than I expected but I love it!  Getting the tension even is much easier this way.  Success!  Check!

Now the only thing left is to weave.  This is the part of the process I love the most.  All the rest is preparation for this step.  And the weaving is going very well.  I managed my swap swatch samples in just a few days as opposed to the weeks I spent planning, counting, measuring, threading, sleying and lashing.  I'm almost finished weaving the remaining fabric.  I'll post pictures of the aprons when I'm finished.