Tuesday, 29 October 2013

New Atslan Pendants

New pendants now available online.

Each of these pendants and cords have been handmade here in the UK using a variety of natural materials from around the world.To view a small selection of our hand crafted pendants, please follow the link below. Alternatively, come along to Totnes market on either a Friday or Saturday to see similar designs.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Tom's Tools At Totnes Market

Not a single Friday passes that I don't wander over to Tom's stall to see what unusual and interesting items appear. Since I've ever had an interest in working with natural fibres, I have appreciated the traditional tools that help shape these fibres. At sorazora we focus on natural fibres that can be spun, dyed, woven, knitted and knotted etc, but I always find time at home to experiment with fibres that can be cut, carved, heated, shaped and so on.

 With so many old tools sitting idle in sheds, why do we continue to buy cheap modern tools that aren't made quite how they used to be? I wouldn't like to suggest that all cheap imported modern tools aren't up for the job, just that my personal preference is for much older tools that have already proved themselves and have plenty of life left...
...This is where Tom comes in.

 Each Friday (weather permitting) Tom Widdicombe can be found with a wide selection of quality used hand tools. The tools vary greatly in their age, origin and the craft discipline in which they are used. The one constant between them all is that they are built to last as long as they are cared for (as all tools should be). The other common link between them all is that any of them could be yours to take home and bring back to life.

 Tom is primarilary an organic farmer in Dartmoor, but his passion for tools became his hobby and a weekly opportunity to meet other craftsmen. If you have any unloved quality hand tools from yesteryear and fancy helping Tom reintroduce them to working sheds, he can be contacted by the email address tomwid909@gmail.com
Or alternatively, you can pop over to Totnes market on a Friday to check out all the stalls and have a friendly chat with Tom in person.

Tom has a great website covering many areas of organic farming as well as his passion for tools. Please follow the link below to learn more:


Thursday, 10 October 2013

Tablet Weaving

Tablet weaving (often known as card weaving in the United States) is where cards are used to create patterned bands of woven fabric. This technique is limited to narrow work such as belts, straps or trim for garments.
Examples have been found in Germany and France that suggest this technique goes at least as far back as the early Iron age and are presumed to have been well used by the Vikings.

Tablets have long been made from materials such as bark, wood, bone, horn, leather and metal whereas modern cards are frequently made from card or plastics. I crafted the two tablets above from buffalo horn and Ipe (a Brazilian ironwood) choosing to try out a simple square disc with just four holes before having a bash at anything more advanced. Tablets are typically a regular polygon (a shape with all angles equal and side lengths also equal) with holes in each corner and sometimes the centre too.

 I found tablet weaving to be far more complex and involved than weaving with a simple rigid heddle and decided to stick with a very simple three colour pattern. Designing a pattern and correctly warping the discs takes some research and concentration and I'd best not confuse anyone with any attempts to explain the procedure. I managed to find plenty of helpful online articles and blogs from which I was able to pick up the basics to get me started.

 As you can see from the above image, it is possible to create decorative patterns as opposed to the simple plain weave of a rigid heddle. The compact loom frame used for this weaving is a recent prototype that I made for the mini rigid heddles that we produce. Both the frame and tablets will be available from spring 2014.

To view my blog entry covering the frame and rigid heddle, please follow the link below.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Loom Frame For A Mini Rigid Heddle

Although I have enjoyed strap weaving with a mini rigid heddle, until now all of my straps became much narrower than the heddle as all the warp threads were staked to a single point at each end.
The concept of incorporating a beam on which to load the warp and another beam to hold the woven fabric is not new and basic horizontal looms have been in use since at least the later medieval period. One clear advantage to beam looms is that the warp threads can be kept evenly spaced out during the weave, this will help weave as wide a fabric as the heddle allows. Having all the warp loaded also requires less work space.

The mini loom frame above has been designed to work comfortably with our mini rigid heddles. I cut the two side frames from two old larch panels that still had a little life left in them. Larch is very much valued for its tough, waterproof and durable qualities. Attached to the pine dowel beams are lengths of willow, these are for the warp threads to tie to. The beams have 8mm threaded rods inserted at each end. Wingnuts are used to hold the frame together and also to lock the beams firmly whilst weaving.

A two ply cotton thread is shown for the warp and a mix of hemp, hemp-cotton and hemp-wool for the weft. All colours are traditional naturals dyes. The frame works well for weaving with a rigid heddle and I'll report at a later date how the frame will fair for tablet weaving.

 As this frame has been specifically designed for use with our mini rigid heddle, it was important to make this device as compact as possible whilst maintaining ease of use. The frame can be taken down in seconds making it ideal for easy transportation. Measuring 30cm x 19cm x 10cm, it isn't really that difficult to carry around whilst set up with a loaded beam.
This prototype will be produced and available through our website during spring 2014.

Please follow the link below to view the blog entry regarding use of this frame for my first attempt at tablet weaving:

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Weaving Waxed Hemp On A Rigid Heddle

Having acquired a simple heddle loom frame back in the summer, it was about time I cleaned it up and got it back to work. The heddle that came with it was the width of the frame, but sadly too finer a heddle to be able to cope with an uneven handspun hemp twine. Our mini rigid heddles are more than up for the task so I took full advantages of using the frame as opposed to staking out all the warp threads to a single point at each end.
 The benefit to this frame is being able to warp up the beam with a few metres at a time whilst still keeping everything compact and easy to work with. Another major difference is the ability to have all the warp threads run parallel and true to the holes and slots of the heddle, this creates wider fabric compared to having all your warp threads heading to a single immovable stake. We are thinking to develop a similar frame on a slightly smaller scale that wood suit our mini rigid heddle, but that remains to be seen as yet!

 One of the difficulties I find with weaving handspun hemp or nettle fibre is that the naturally uneven twine can easily get worn in places leading to rather inconvenient repair missions. Through making waxed cordage for pendants, I noticed that a handspun twine becomes easier to work with if given a quick floss through a block of beeswax. It removes the twine's tendency to twist up on itself and is also more forgiving if you need to undo any knots (something I greatly appreciate if working with macrame).

 Each of the handspun hemp twines in the image above are all organic wild Himalayan hemp which has been harvested, retted and then handspun in the remote villages of the Himalayan foothills very much in the same way as it has been done for centuries.
The dying we organise ourselves and use only traditional natural dyestuffs and mordants. Weaving with wax coated hemp twine was a first for me and I was keen to know if the resulting fabric could bring any new craft applications.

 The beam on the loom frame was loaded with just over two metres of twine and with each warp thread doubled for added strength. Each of these twines had to be pulled through the wax one or two times to give them a smoother, tighter appearance. I must admit that it is an added effort, especially as all the weft threads would go through the same treatment. As I planned to use as many natural dye colours that I could get my hands on, it worked out a lot easier to load up several shuttles with different colours and always having the selection to hand.

The resulting weave was still fairly loose even after using a beater so I took advantage of another benefit to waxed thread. Due to both warp and weft threads all being waxed, they can slide over each other with relative ease. This fact allowed me to slide all the weft threads by hand to compact them. This action also adds another element of effort, but the extremely tight weave in combination with the beeswax coating makes for a fabric far more resistant to water and abrasive wear and tear.