Hydrothermoplasticity: Tell me more

Some people are happy to follow the instructions and make beautiful things. Others need to know why.

I’m firmly in the ‘tell me why’ camp. Maybe it’s down to unresolved issues from my childhood, maybe it’s down to a general distrust of authority and maybe I’m just a scientifically-minded gal. When my weaving teacher didn’t provide a whole lot of insight into the ‘why’ of wet finishing, I wanted to know more.

Now, thanks to the late Allen Fannin and his book Handloom Weaving Technology I know that the magical results achieved by wet finishing are all down to wool’s property of hydrothermoplasticity.

In short, weaving introduces tension to fibre. Water and warmth relax that tension and cause the fibres of the weave to meld.

handwoven pistachio chevron scarf

The pistachio chevron scarf

In the case of my chevron scarf, the greatest miracle this project brings is the miracle of increased skill. While the finished scarf looks OK and feels lovely and soft, the main benefit is how much I learned from this project:

- The weave can split of the warp tension is too tight. A light ‘bounce’ in the warp is enough, don’t tighten the warp further.

-  Advance the warp often (relates to the splitting I mentioned above.)

- Keep a vigilant eye on the width of the weave and measure it under tension. If the weaving width decreases as you weave, you risk a broken warp thread at the selvage. This happened on the chevron scarf but wasn’t a disaster as all the books tell you what to do to fix a broken warp thread. One day I’ll have a temple (stretcher) to help maintain the weaving width.

- Be gentle with your beat.

I am applying all these lessons to my current project, another scarf, using the same warp but a different treadling.

scarf on the loom

The blue tape in the photo is my measurement guide. Each line of machine stitching marks 10cm. I move the pin each time I finish another 10 cm.

The weave may turn out to be too loose this time as I’m using a very gentle beat. If it is, maybe the miracle of hydrothermoplasticity will fix it.

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5 responses to “Hydrothermoplasticity: Tell me more

  1. Hydrothermoplasticity perhaps applies to knitting, e.g. blocking and steaming. Interesting post.

  2. I never knew that, very interesting. I’m enjoying hearing about your projects very much :)

    • Theres so much to learn in this world, isn’t there? Most of the time that feels very exciting – sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  3. Interesting! Thanks for another great post.

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