Thursday, December 9, 2010

Reconfiguring the TC-1

TC-1 with 4 modules, 60 epi, 14.4" in reed

I have always been weaving on my TC-1 (Thread Controller 1 Loom from Digital Weaving Norway) loom with four modules set up one behind the other, giving me a warp density (sett) of 60 ends per inch (epi) and a weaving width at the reed of 14.4 inches. Since the interlacement of warp and weft (weave structures) brings the warp in, most of my final work has averaged 13.5 inches in width. You can see the loom above from different sides. Note that the cardboard box is my own invention--cat-proofing the springs and heddles. I had it in my head that I would do a large weaving for my upcoming show (two-person exhibition at the Chandler Gallery) if I had the time, and, if so, I would reconfigure the loom to weave full-width. This would mean I would have a width of 28.8 inches at the reed, but my sett would decrease to 30 ends per inch.

When I finished my sky weavings--East and West--which I love, by the way, I started debating with myself--leave the loom alone or take a chance on reconfiguration? Everything was working so well, did I want to rock the boat? Would I have time to complete a piece? Did I have enough warp (it would have to be heavier than the 60/2 silk I was using to account for the smaller sett) for the new piece? If it was possible to worry about it, I did. But I always came back to the conviction that this was the time to change the loom and weave at a larger width. Call it fate.

My in-house saint, Mark Goodwin, reconfiguring the TC-1

Of course, my reconfiguring the TC-1 loom translates to Mark reconfiguring the TC-1 loom. You'd think it was enough that he has made all the beautiful frames for mounting my new work, but there is always something else I can think of to ask him to do. (Do you know that expression, honey-do?) We were greatly aided by a video clip of the process that Vibeke Vestby, the inventor of the TC-1, sent to us. We (I did help) had to remove the modules, put two of them together, replace them on the loom, modify the bottom slides that hold the springs, and basically we were done. It was amazingly easy and I could move on to my next fear--rethreading the loom.

Because the modules were moved, I had to completely rethread the loom. First we had to take a trip to Massachusetts to buy new yarn (I am using 20/2 silk from Webs) (now I can worry about my credit card bill), then I wound an 18 yard warp (my longest ever) and I put it on the back beam. In the past I used a quarter-inch raddle--but that left my hands when I sold my AVL dobby loom--so I used a one-inch raddle and knew the whole time I was doing it that it wasn't right. My back beam has flanges which need to be placed at exactly the width of the warp, but I had mine wider. Don't ask me why I didn't stop and get it right--I just didn't. Then I threaded the loom. There are 880 hooks on my loom, therefore 880 threads, and after a while I got a rhythm going--count out 10 heddles from the bottom spring bar, count out 10 threads, thread the heddles. Tie them off to the right. Untie ten threads from the group tied off to the left. Start again. If you read this blog regularly you already know that counting and numbers are a big part of my life, and repeating actions are basically the life of a weaver.

The threading went smoothly too--another worry hits the dust. Threading the reed was really simple--I just made a weave file that lifted two ends at a time and ran through that file putting the lifted ends into the dents of the reed. Then I pulled the whole 18 yards forward through the reed, called for Mark's help, measured and repositioned the flanges correctly, then slowly and very carefully wound back the warp under even tension. It looks great now.

TC-1 reconfigured to 30 epi, width at reed 28.8"

Note that the cat-protector had to be modified since the box was not wide enough to fit around the reconfigured springs. I think the corrugated cardboard looks much nicer.

Recently I got a copy of Weaving for Beginners by Peggy Osterkamp. I have been reading it at night, always receptive to find a new way to do something, and Peggy has plenty of smart ideas in this book. I usually lash on my warps to tension them at the front of the loom, and she suggests using a smooth slippery yarn, like a chalk and mason line nylon. A cry to Mark and immediately I had this hot pink nylon in my hands. It has replaced the cotton cord that I used to use. I am not sure it made a difference, but like the corrugated cardboard, it looks nicer.

Note the new pink cord tensioning the warp

The weaving I wove while I was debating the reconfiguration of the loom is called His Wife. I think of it as a self-portrait. It is probably the last 13.5" width weaving I will make for a long time. Now on to that big weaving.

His Wife by Bhakti Ziek, 2010