Thursday, April 12, 2012

How I Made My Tension "Good Enough"

I finally have a little bit of time to write about what I did to make the unacceptable tension on this batch of cloth acceptable. There are several things that told me the tension was unacceptable. First, one section was skipping, creating long floats on the surface of the cloth. It's because the beam turns at the rate of the tightest section and everything else is relative to that. That tightest section was REALLY tight. I had to set the beam tension to keep from breaking threads in it.

I added a little weight to the slack area so that I could weave enough cloth to wet-finish a sample. This is the true test of a cloth's characteristics. I needed to see whether I could get away with "sort of wonky" tension or if I needed to forget about having cloth in time for the next show and really fix the tension.

When the sample was done, I decided that I needed to reduce the tension on the tightest section, but that the others would be OK.

The procedure for fixing it is pretty simple. I just removed the tight section from weaving, taped it back into place, and wove off a bit of cloth with the remaining sections.

When the nearby sections are down to the same diameter, or really close, I put those threads back into action and the beam is ready to go!

Rethreaded, resleyed, and ready to start.

The result a few inches later...

Here's the piece of cloth with the section missing. I'll have to get creative to cut this cloth into scarves or shawls with fringe on the long side. Any cloth that's left over will get turned into throw pillows.

To make the tension "perfect", I'd repeat this procedure for the remaining tight sections, removing each one from service when it reached the diameter of the section I just fixed. I'd remove more and more sections from service while continuing to weave until all sections had the same diameter.

This is what will happen at the end. The short sections will run out and I'll keep weaving with the rest until the resulting cloth lies in strips too narrow to use, even for scarves.

There are several differences between doing it at the beginning and dealing with it at the end. The first factor, and the one that kept me from doing it, is time. It takes a long time to capture the thread order and rethread when it's time to begin weaving that section again. Doing it now would have prevented me from having blue cloth for customers who will arrive in my booth on Friday. That date will not change. At the end of the beam, I don't care about thread order. I'll just remove those sections when they run out and rethread them for the next project. It will take less time, and time will be less of a factor then.

The next factor to consider is tension. If I take the extra time at the beginning, the tension will be better for the rest of the cloth. If I don't (and I didn't) the tension will be an issue for the whole beam, finally resolving itself at the point when I'm weaving gappy cloth. And that's the price I'm paying for a simple mistake early on in the winding process. I've already spent about 60 hours dealing with this problem. There isn't enough profit in my production to pay for any more time fixing this cloth. I need to get it woven and move on to the next color. The only people, other than my blog readers, who would notice anything amiss with the cloth are textile aficionados, holding it flat against a wall and looking for flaws.

I blame my muse. Remember how I give credit to the muse when the cloth turns out perfect? Well, the flip side is that I get to share the blame when it doesn't. And perhaps I angered the muse by working on an unnamed loom without a talisman. These will both be fixed before I work on that loom again in a few weeks. Superstitious? Yeah, but to a healthy degree, I think. I recognize that my superstition really just serves to keep me humble when things go well and protect my ego when they don't.


Laura said...

The biggest factor is to find out why the sections went on at such different tensions and make sure it doesn't happen again....

Blossom Merz said...

You got it! I wrote about the problem when it happened:

My heart sunk when I saw what had happened, but I had no idea then that it would cost me many dozens of hours and thousands of dollars in bad cloth. You can be sure that I'll invest an appropriate amount of time and money into preventing a mistake like this from ever happening again!